Facts About Colorectal Cancer
The Hard Facts:
Fact: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States…with 150,000 cases diagnosed each year….and 50,000 lives lost!
Fact: Colorectal cancer is highly preventable; can be detected by testing even before there are symptoms.
Fact: Health experts agree that all men and women over 50 or those under 50 with a family history should be tested.
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer occurs in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine and the rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus. Most colon cancers develop first as colorectal polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that may later become cancerous.
Who Does It Affect?
Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people 50 years or older. It is the third most common cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths. Americans have a 1 in 20 risk of having colorectal cancer, but that risk can be increased by other factors. It is estimated that this year more than 50,000 people will die of colon cancer. If everyone 50 years or older had regular screening more than 80% of deaths from colon cancer could be prevented.
Is It Treatable?
Colon cancer, when discovered early, is highly treatable. Screening detects precancerous polyps and allows them to be removed before turning into cancer. Even if it spreads into nearby lymph nodes, surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy is highly successful. In the most difficult cases — when the cancer has metastasized to the liver, lungs or other sites — treatment can prolong and add to one’s quality of life.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer?
- Get tested on a regular basis beginning at age 50 or earlier if you have a family history of cancer or other risk factors.
- Increase the intensity and amount of physical activity
- Limit intake of red and processed meats
- Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D
- Eat more vegetables and fruits and maintain a healthy diet
- Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection
- Avoid excess alcohol
(Source: American Cancer Society)
Why Should You Be Tested for Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is highly preventable; it can be detected by testing even before there are symptoms. Testing could save your life. Screening detects precancerous polyps and allows them to be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colon cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure.
What Testing/screenings Are Available for Colorectal Cancer?
There are several different tests that can be used to screen for colorectal cancers.
- There are tests that can find both colorectal polyps and cancer. These tests look at the structure of the colon itself to find any abnormal areas. This is done either with a scope inserted into the rectum or with special imaging (x-ray) tests. Polyps found before they become cancerous can be removed, so these tests may prevent colorectal cancer. This is why these tests are preferred if they are available and you are willing to have them.
- There are also tests that mainly find cancer: They test the stool (feces) for signs that cancer may be present. These tests are less invasive and easier to have done, but they are less likely to detect polyps.
Colonoscopy is the test that is the most comprehensive and is provided at Meadowbrook Endoscopy Center, a free-standing ambulatory surgery center, located in Westbury. Highly trained and specialized doctors aided by Registered Nurses examine the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope. It is inserted through the rectum into the colon. The colonoscope has a video camera on the end that is connected to a display monitor so the doctor can see and closely examine the inside of the colon. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to biopsy or remove any suspicious-looking areas such as polyps, if needed. While Colonoscopy may be done in a hospital, many patients prefer the more relaxed and less hectic non-hospital environment of an Ambulatory Surgery Center such as Meadowbrook Endoscopy.