Thursday, July 24, 2008

medical minute

please note, this is just generic info and not specific medical advice. if you have any medical problems or questions, please discuss these with your doctor.

i love those little disclaimers on commercials and such.

anyway, for real, i wanted to give a little more update on tony snow and colon cancer. i remember hearing that his mom also died of colon cancer but what i didn't know was that she died at the age of 38! now, i'm just assuming once tony hit 50 or somewhere near there he started seeing doctors since he would need to be screened for colon cancer at that age. i'm assuming that was the case because i never want to second guess a physician (always give the benefit of the doubt i say, you never know the whole story ... well, having said that, once you know the whole story and someone was still grossly negligent, let 'em have it!). the reason you would be second guessing is if a physician actually recommended he wait till 50, that would constitute gross negligence. any medical resident (i.e., "physician in training") knows that if you have a first-degree relative with colon cancer, then the age you should be screened is 10 years before the age that relative was diagnosed, or at age 40, whichever comes first. i'm not sure if/when tony's mom was actually diagnosed, but since she died at 38, that means he should have been screened at least by 28 with a colonoscopy. as far as i can tell, he first got screened at 50 when he was ultimately diagnosed. i just read some source that said he started having abdominal pain which led to the testing. it's amazing and ironic that the white house press secretary of all people may not have gotten notified by someone, even a physician friend, that he was way overdue for a colonoscopy. very sad. who knows what the outcome might have been if he had known that he needed screening much earlier. then again, at the time he was 28, i can't say for certain that those recommendations were even in place. certainly some room for investigation. still, these aren't exactly new recommendations so the word has been out for some time.

to die at age 38 from colon cancer is not a common occurrence. most colon cancers are not familial and typically grow out of polyps which take time, thus the age 50 recommendation. however, a small percentage of cancers are familial and are diagnosed at much earlier ages.

so, again, if you have a first-degree relative (sibling, parent, etc.) diagnosed with colon cancer, note the age! you should be screened for colon cancer 10 years before your relative was diagnosed, or at age 40, whichever comes first. if your mom got diagnosed with colon cancer at age 45, you need screening at 35. now, the question comes up as to which screening tool is recommended but for all intents and purposes, colonoscopy is probably the way to go. for more detailed info, click here to see the american college of gastroenterology's input.