Kirstie Alley died of colon cancer.  Here's how to reduce your risk |  CNN

Kirstie Alley died of colon cancer. Here’s how to reduce your risk | CNN


Colon cancer cost another life. Emmy and Golden Globe winner Kirstie Alley, best known for her roles in the TV sitcoms ‘Cheers’ and ‘Veronica’s Closet,’ died Monday at 71 after battling “newly discovered” cancer, according to a family statement.

A representative for Alley confirmed to CNN via email on Tuesday that she was diagnosed with colon cancer before her death.

Colorectal cancer, which includes colon and rectal cancers, is the second leading cause of cancer death in 2022, second only to lung and bronchial cancer, according to the National Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program. cancer.

Regular checkups are the best way to prevent colon cancer, according to the US Preventive Services Task Force. The task force lowered the age to start colon and rectal cancer screening to 45 last year after a worrying spike in colorectal cancer cases in people under 50.

The new recommendations apply to anyone aged 45 to 75, including people with no symptoms, no previous diagnosis, no family history of colon or rectal disease, and no personal history of polyps, all of which are key risk factors. Polyps are tiny mushroom-like bumps or stalks that grow inside the colon or rectum.

If these growths are not found and removed, they can become cancerous.

Adults between the ages of 76 and 85 can also be screened, depending on their general health, screening history and personal preferences, the task force said.

Screening for colorectal cancer can be done in several ways, including simple mail tests that look for blood or cancer cells in a stool sample taken by the patient. However, all stool tests can have false positive test results, which would likely require a more invasive test to rule out cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Stool tests: Although a stool test is the least invasive option, it should be done at least once a year, the company said. No anti-inflammatory painkillers can be taken for seven days before a stool test, while red meats such as beef, lamb or liver and any citrus or vitamin C supplements should be avoided for at least three days.

If the test reveals anything concerning, “you’ll still need a colonoscopy to see if you have cancer,” according to ACS. However, hidden bleeding in the stool does not automatically signal cancer, as ulcers, hemorrhoids, and other conditions can also cause rectal bleeding.

Stool DNA test: A stool DNA test is another option, the company said. Since colorectal cancer cells can have DNA mutations, the test can screen for these genetic abnormalities. This test only needs to be done once every three years, but a full stool sample should be taken and mailed.

Patients may have insurance coverage issues because the test is relatively new, ACS said. Again, if anything suspicious is found, a colonoscopy will still be required.

For all subsequent tests, the colon must be clean and free of feces, requiring home bowel preparation. Ways to empty the bowels include pills, drinking a laxative solution, or using an enema the day before the procedure.

This process has become much easier over the years with the advent of newer kits that don’t require as much liquid laxative, so talk to your doctor about your options, ACS suggested.

Colonoscopy: One of the most widely used tests, this procedure allows a doctor to access the full length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, a “finger-thin, flexible, lighted tube with a small camera video at the end,” ACS said.

Typically, the patient is lightly sedated throughout the entire procedure, waking up with no knowledge of the process. By watching the video in real time as the endoscope moves through the intestine, the doctor can stop and insert small instruments into the endoscope to take a sample or even remove any suspicious polyps.

Virtual Colonscopy: This test uses computer programs that take x-rays and computed tomography (CT) to make three-dimensional images of the inside of the colon and rectum.

The test does not require sedation. However, it requires the same bowel preparation as a regular colonoscopy. After the sick drinks a contrast dye, a small flexible tube will be inserted into the rectum, followed by pumped air to expand the rectum and colon for better images.

As with all CT scans, this procedure exposes the patient to a small amount of radiation and may cause cramping until air exits the body, the company said. If a suspicious mass is detected, a colonoscopy will still be needed to remove the mass.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This test inserts the same flexible camera tube into the lower part of the colon. However, since the tube is only 2 feet (60 centimeters) long, this test only allows the doctor to examine the entire rectum and less than half of the colon – any polypys in the upper colon will be missed. This test is not often used in the United States, the company said.

Many people avoid a colonoscopy, in part because of the preparation, so to encourage people to get screened, former “Today” host Katie Couric aired her entire procedure in 2000 – from preparation the day before to a Couric lightly sedated watching the proceedings as they unfolded.

“I have a nice little colon,” Couric said with a sleepy chuckle as he watched the video projection of the scope inside his colon. “You haven’t put on the bezel yet, have you?” asked Couric, whose husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer at age 42 in 1998.

“Yes! We are doing the exam. We are almost done,” said his doctor, the late Dr. Kenneth Forde, who taught for nearly 40 years at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York.

More recently, actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney filmed parts of their colonoscopies to raise awareness after Reynolds lost a bet.

“Rob and I turned 45 this year,” Reynolds said in the video. “And you know, part of this age is having a colonoscopy. It’s a simple step that could literally – and I mean, literally – save your life.

Doctors found both actors had polyps that were removed during the screening.

“It’s not every day that you get to raise awareness about something that will most definitely save lives. That’s motivation enough for me to let you in on a camera being shoved up my ass,” Reynolds said.

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