Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It’s also the one cancer you can prevent.
Every year, more than 150,000 men and women are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum. More than 50,000 people die from colon cancer each year. The good news is that this is the one cancer you can prevent.
Colorectal cancer is also known as colon cancer. Most colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps or growths that form on the lining of the colon. The majority of these polyps are benign. However, unless they’re removed, they can grow bigger, develop abnormal cells and become malignant. A colonoscopy screening will find and remove these polyps before they become cancerous. With early detection, colorectal cancer can be effectively treated and overcome.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer
Unfortunately, colon cancer usually exhibits no symptoms until the cancer is advanced. That’s why it is called the silent killer. When symptoms appear, they may include:
• Blood in or on the stool
• Persistent changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
• Narrowing of the stool
• Stomach discomfort, cramping or frequent gas pains
• Unexplained weight loss
Are You at Risk for Colon Cancer?
You may be at risk for colon cancer if you:
• Are age 50 or older
• Have a family history of colon cancer or polyps
• Have a personal history of polyps
• Have an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
• Have had breast or prostate cancer
• Are African American
Some women mistakenly believe that only men can get colon cancer, but this disease doesn’t discriminate. In fact, nearly 26,000 women die every year from colon cancer. Others think that regular, healthy bowel habits or a lack of family history mean they aren’t at risk for colon cancer. Unfortunately, colon cancer’s lack of symptoms is misleading. The best advice is to get screened for colon cancer if you’re over 50.
African Americans and Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer among African Americans. The numbers don’t lie, but you can change them.
Not only are African Americans usually diagnosed with colon cancer at younger ages than other ethnic groups, they are also more likely to get colon cancer and less likely to survive. Unfortunately, statistics show that African Americans aren’t screened for colon cancer as often as other ethnic groups. The American Journal of Gastroenterology has recommended that African Americans begin colon cancer screening at age 45.
You have the power to stop colon cancer! Call your doctor today to schedule a screening consultation.
Screening Saves Lives
There are four screening methods that help detect colon cancer: (1) Colonoscopy, (2) Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, (3) Double-Contrast Barium Enema, and (4) Fecal Occult Blood Test. If you’re over 50 or at higher risk, your doctor will recommend a colonoscopy. The American College of Gastroenterology considers colonoscopy the best screening method because it enables the physician to see the entire colon. It’s also the only test that allows the physician to perform a polyp biopsy or removal at the same time. More than 75 to 90 percent of colorectal cancers can be avoided simply through early detection and removal of precancerous polyps.
Colonoscopy allows the physician to examine the internal walls of the entire colon through a flexible, lighted instrument called a colonoscope. If benign polyps are found, the physician can remove them. If cancerous polyps are found, the sooner treatment can begin, the better the outcome. During the procedure, the patient is sedated.
According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, people diagnosed in the early stages of colon cancer have a greater than 90 percent chance of survival. Most insurance plans, including Medicare, pay for colonoscopy screening. Generally, physicians recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years, unless there are sufficient concerns or risk factors that require greater frequency.
A second screening method is the flexible sigmoidoscopy. This examination allows a doctor to look inside the rectum and lower half of the colon through a flexible, lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope. Some polyps can be removed during this procedure. A sigmoidoscopy is recommended every five years.
Other physicians may advise patients to have a Double-Contrast Barium Enema instead of a sigmoidoscopy. In this case, the patient is given an enema containing a liquid known as barium, followed by an injection of air. Afterwards, the patient’s colon will be X-rayed. The barium outlines the colon on X-rays.
The final screening method is a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). The patient collects a series of stool samples at home and brings the samples to the doctor’s office. These samples are then sent to a lab to be tested for the presence of blood. Doctors recommend that this test be done yearly.
You do possess the power to stop colon cancer! Take the first step. Call your doctor today to schedule a screening consultation.
What is a Gastroenterologist?
Florida Hospital Flagler Gastroenterologists, Dr. Wallace Combs, Dr. Joseph McKinley, and Dr. Safwan Shams, diagnose and treat digestive system disorders such as colorectal cancer. This specialty requires three years of internal medicine education, followed by two more years of training in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive tract disorders. The digestive tract includes the esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, rectum, colon and small intestine.
Gastroenterologists are trained in the expert use of flexible fiber optic instruments. These instruments allow the gastroenterologist to directly view the digestive system. They are a significant aid to the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.