Colorectal cancer is the second leading deadliest cancer that affects both men and women in the US. This statistic doesn’t have to be this way because early screenings can catch precancerous polyps before they become cancerous. The CDC recommends that all men and women ages 50 and older receive screenings because 90% of colorectal cancer occurs in this population. There are certain risk factors that can have an impact on the development of colorectal cancer such as, inflammatory bowel diseases, family history of colorectal cancer and some genetic syndromes. While these risk factors cannot be changed, lifestyle factors can be changed, such as:
- Physical activity
- Alcohol consumption and
- Tobacco use
There are a number of screenings that can be done, and not all screenings are right for everyone. The best thing to do is to talk to your doctor to find a screening that fits your needs. Some of the screenings are stool tests that look for blood, antibodies or altered DNA. Other screenings are much more diagnostic such as a flexible Sigmoidoscopy, which only looks at the lower 1/3 of the colon, or a Colonoscopy which looks at the entire colon. Getting screenings done early is a powerful weapon against colorectal cancer, as it may take as many as 10-15 years for a polyp to develop into colorectal cancer. When polyps are found this early, they can be removed before actually turning into colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, just a bit more than half of the people who need to get screenings, actually do.
Now some may ask, what are the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer? This is a difficult question to answer since colorectal cancer doesn’t always have symptoms, especially early on in the disease. This is where early screening plays a crucial role. If you are experiencing symptoms of colorectal cancer, they may include: blood in your stool, stomach pain, aches or cramps that don’t go away and unexpected weight loss.
Surgery remains the most effective treatment for colorectal cancer, with radiation therapy being the most effective additional therapy before or after surgery. Overall, treatment is based largely on the stage of the cancer. Being aware and getting early screening can prevent even getting to the point of treatment.
Submitted by: Anna Treague, RN, Burnett County Public Health
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