Colorectal Cancer Awareness
Early diagnosis is the key to more effective treatment
More than 153,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 will die from it this year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Colorectal cancer is a term that includes colon cancer and rectal cancer. It is the second deadliest and fourth most common form of cancer in the U.S. Most colorectal cancers develop in people above age 50, but more than one in 10 diagnoses are in younger people. In fact, cases of young-onset colorectal cancer are rising.
But there are steps you can take to help protect yourself.
“Colorectal cancer can be prevented with regular screenings and healthy lifestyle choices,” says Sherry Hughes, Physician Assistant at Aspirus Clinic – Marshfield. “If you do develop cancer, a screening can help detect it early, when it’s much easier to treat effectively.”
Find it early
Most colorectal cancers start as abnormal growths, called polyps, on the lining of the intestines. These polyps can be removed before they develop into cancer. Many early colorectal cancers can also be treated successfully. According to the ACS, survival rates drop dramatically after cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
Screening is the best tool for finding polyps or colorectal cancer early. Your primary care provider can help you decide which screening program is right for you. If you have risk factors, such as a family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, they may recommend that you start screening earlier, such as age 40 instead of 45. Your primary care provider can help you determine if a colonoscopy, FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) or FOBT (Fecal Occult Blood Test) is right for you.
Prevention is best
You can take steps to lower your risk by making healthy lifestyle choices. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends the following:
- Limit intake of red meat, such as beef and lamb, to no more than 18 ounces (cooked weight) a week.
- Avoid processed meat, such as hot dogs, ham, bacon and sausage.
- Know the risks of alcohol. Colorectal cancer has been linked to drinking alcohol.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke.
- Be physically active for at least a half hour a day.
Don’t ignore symptoms
Some colorectal cancer can’t be prevented, but it can be treated. The ACS says to check with your provider if you have:
- Diarrhea, constipation or another change in bowel habits for more than a few days
- Cramping or steady stomach pain
- Blood in your stool or from your rectum
“Having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s cancer, but it’s worth investigating. Getting screened could save your life, or at the very least, give you some peace of mind,” says Hughes.
Sherry Hughes, PA-C, sees patients at Aspirus Clinic – Marshfield (715-898-1238). To find a primary care provider near you, visit www.aspirus.org/find-a-provider.