(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eating carrots, loquats (shesek) and parsley - which contain large amounts of carotenoids that help produce vitamin A in the body - for years can reduce the prevalence of colorectal cancer by as much as 70 percent, according to research by Prof. Gad Rennert of Carmel Medical Center and the Technion. But once a person develops pre-cancerous polyps, the best way to detect and remove them in time is with a colonoscopy financed by one's health fund.
March has been designated as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, during which the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) will do all it can to arouse public understanding of the second most common malignant tumor in the country.
At an ICA press conference this week, Prof. Eitan Skapa, chairman of the Israel Gastroenterology Society and head of the gastro unit at Assaf Harofeh Hospital, said that the number of new colorectal cancer cases is "very high" compared to that in other developed countries, apparently due to genetic reasons.
Few adults over 50 (or younger people with a family history) consent to completely painless tests for occult blood in the stool, said Skapa; even fewer go for invasive colonoscopies. Since data show that public service announcements in the media about color cancer detection and prevention increase the number of people going to tests, the ICA decided on the March campaign. Any polyps discovered in the colon during colonoscopy can be removed during the procedure to prevent the development of a malignant tumor.
Colorectal cancer is most prevalent after the age of 50, but especially between 65 and 74 and among Jews of Ashkenazi origin. Symptoms of colorectal cancer include blood in the stool, a change in bowel movements, stomach aches that do not pass and drastic weight loss. It is treated with drugs, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but it still kills some 1,400 Israelis a year - about the same number as those who die of lung and breast cancers. Forty percent of those diagnosed die from it, but early detection has lowered the number of victims somewhat in recent years.
A survey conducted by the Geocartography Institute for the ICA among nearly 400 people over 50 found that the main reason people do not go for colorectal cancer screening is "laziness." Over half of the representative sample said they had never heard from their family doctor of the occult blood in stool test. One in five who had said they did not have it done because of "fear of the results." Those who were "too lazy" to have the test done were, surprisingly, more likely to be college graduates, secular Jews, Israeli born, and those with high incomes.
The ICA will sent a pamphlet on early detection of the cancer to all who call 1-800-599-995. Information is also on the association's Web site at www.cancer.org.il.