By Claudia Hriesik, MD
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and now is a good time to learn more about colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) and how it can be prevented or best treated.
The good news first: Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable!
- Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and is an “Equal Opportunity Killer”= both men and women are affected
- This year, approximately 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and 56,000 people will die from the disease
- Colorectal cancer is a disease that can be prevented though through regular screenings, a healthy diet and regular exercise
- The risk of colorectal cancer goes up as we get older
- Although the number of colorectal cancer cases has declined in adults 55 years of age and older since 2005, the number of cases has increased in people younger than 55
- Screening and early detection are the key to help find colorectal cancer when it’s small, hasn’t spread, and might be easier to treat
- The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at average risk start colorectal cancer screening at age 45. Some people may be at higher risk based on their family health history and other risk factors and might need to start testing earlier
How can you lower your own risk?
- Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers
- Exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week
Can colorectal cancer be cured?
- Since there are very few symptoms associated with colorectal cancer, regular screening is essential. Screening is beneficial for two main reasons: colorectal cancer is preventable if polyps that lead to the cancer are detected and removed, and it is curable if the cancer is detected in its early stages
- If detected, colorectal cancer requires surgery in nearly all cases for complete cure, sometimes in conjunction with radiation and chemotherapy
- Between 80-90% of patients are restored to normal health if the cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages. However, the cure rate drops to 50% or less when diagnosed in the later stages
Note: Studies have shown that patients treated by colorectal surgeons — experts in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of colon and rectal problems — are more likely to survive colorectal cancer and experience fewer complications
How can you be screened?
- Current screening methods include:
- Stool occult blood and abnormal DNA testing (Chemical tests that can detect hidden blood in the stool and/ or changes in the DNA)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (a visual examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon)
- Colonoscopy (a visual examination of the entire colon)
- Double contrast barium enema (X-ray) or CT colonography
- Digital rectal exam
As opposed to other tests: During a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy colon polyps can both be detected and removed!
Please find out from your colorectal surgeon or other healthcare provider which screening procedure is right for you and how often you should be screened
Screening can be a Lifesaver!
For further questions/ concerns please contact us at (585) 22-COLON or (585) 222-6566
Your team at Rochester Colon and Rectal Surgeons, P.C.