It’s Preventable, Treatable and Beatable!
March 26, 2018
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the United States. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 22 for men and 1 in 24 for women. However, a number of factors can affect your risk for developing colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the lower part of the digestive system. The main function of the colon is to absorb the last 20 percent of water that empties from the intestines. For reasons that are not clear, the colon is more susceptible to cancer formation. Signs that something may be going on in your colon include:
- blood in your stool
- a change in bowels habits
- passing an excessive amount of gas
- abdominal discomfort
Detecting Colorectal Cancer Early Is Key
A simple method is a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). The FOBT test involves taking a small sample of stool and placing it on a card. The sample is then tested by applying special drops to see if there is a color change. If there is, this indicates there is blood in your stool.
The best way to screen for colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. After a study in 1990, it was discovered that when a polyp forms in the colon, it will more than likely form a cancer. However, it takes approximately 10 years for a polyp to form into a cancerous polyp, so early detection is key!
Beginning at age 50, screening guidelines recommend receiving a colonoscopy once every 10 years. This guideline is for individuals who have zero polyps in their first procedure. If you have up to three polyps, it is then recommended you have a colonoscopy every five years. For five or more polyps, you should have a colonoscopy every three years. Your family history does dictate when you should start your screening process. For example, if you have a first-degree relative like a mother, father, sister or brother who has had colon cancer, your first screening should begin 10 years prior to the age they were diagnosed with colon cancer.
In 2018, it is estimated that 140,250 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Because of early detection and improved treatment, there are more than one million colorectal cancer survivors.
Colorectal cancer can be prevented; however, many patients are nervous about the procedure for two reasons:
- Individuals are scared about waking up during the procedure.
- Bowel prep is intimidating.
To help address the first concern, patients can consider general anesthesia as an option during the procedure. For patients that are put to sleep, they do not remember anything from the procedure. Please check with your insurance company to verify what level of anesthesia is covered under your health plan.
The second concern is the bowel prep. Good news – times have changed! The preparation for a colonoscopy now is different than in previous years. No longer do patients have to drink large jugs of liquid to prepare. It has been proven that smaller amounts can have the same affect and it is not as hard on your system. At the end of the day, patients will agree that enduring a day of prep far outweighs the negatives of having colorectal cancer.
If you are 50 years or older, schedule a colonoscopy with one of the six physicians who perform colonoscopies within Huron Regional Medical Center’s system of care. If you are younger than 50 years of age but family history is a risk factor, talk to your physician to see if a colonoscopy is recommended.
To find a physician, please visit www.huronregional.org/wear-blue.
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