The following article was copied from the Sierra Sun of the Tahoe Forest Health System:
"March was designated National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 10 years ago. Since then, public awareness of screening for colorectal cancer has grown and mortality has decreased. Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum and is equally common in men and women. It is one of the few cancers we can prevent successfully with colonoscopy screenings, by removing polyps before they become cancerous or by detecting the cancer early when it can be more easily and successfully treated. Colorectal Cancer usually takes about 5-10 years to develop.
Early stages of colorectal cancer do not usually have symptoms , which is why screening is so important. Advanced disease may cause: Rectal bleeding or bloody stool, change in bowel habits or stools, stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps), diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, unexplained weight loss, constant fatigue, and/or vomiting. The American Cancer Society indicates that colorectal cancer may be treated with chemotherapy, monoclonal antibodies, radiation therapy, surgery or a variety of combinations of these treatments.
Persons considered at risk
• Men and women age 50 and older
• People who use tobacco, are obese or are sedentary
• People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps, personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease (such as longstanding ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease), a family history of inherited colorectal cancer
• People with genetic predisposition- HNPCC, hereditary non- polyposis colon cancer
Reduce your risks
• Be physically active and exercise regularly
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Eat a high-fiber diet (rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains), consume calcium-rich foods like low-fat or skim milk and limit red meat consumption and avoid processed meats.
• Don't smoke
• Don't drink alcohol excessively
• Have a baseline colonoscopy at age 50 and then every 5-10 years, unless polyps are present then repeat colonoscopy in a year except if the polyps are hyperplastic
• The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer for all people until age 75 and some people older than 75. Ask your doctor if you should be screened
• There are still many cases in younger patients who experience ongoing abdominal discomfort, this symptom should not be ignored and a colonoscopy as a diagnostic tool can still be used to rule out polyps and colorectal cancer.
• Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor about which test or tests are best for you.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. If everyone aged 50 years old or older were screened regularly, as many as 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Colorectal cancer also is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with advancing age. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people aged 50 or older."
I encourage you to talk to your doctor about colonoscopy screenings.
For more information:
American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org
American College of Gastroenterology, www.acg.gi.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition, (877) 427-2111, www.fightcolorectalcancer.org
Colon Cancer Alliance, (877) 422-2030, www.ccalliance.org
National Cancer Institute, (800) 422-6237, www.cancer.gov
Prevent Cancer Foundation, www.preventcancer.org