Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Diagnosis
For many Americans, colorectal cancer is a very intimidating and frightening topic to discuss. With colorectal cancer being the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, taking the time to understand the preventative actions available is essential to stopping the cancer before it starts.
What are common colorectal cancer symptoms?
According to the American Cancer Society, many individuals may not experience colorectal cancer symptoms during its early stages. Therefore, it is highly encouraged to get yourself, or a loved one, screened. Potential colorectal cancer symptoms could consist of:
Unintended weight loss
Weakness and fatigue
Blood in the stool
A change in bowel habits that lasts more than a few days
How can colorectal cancer be prevented?
Surprisingly, approximately half of deaths due to colon cancer each year could be avoided if those aged 50 and older were to be screened for colon cancer. Since colorectal cancer normally begins with a polyp, doctors can remove the polyp before it becomes cancerous. Although some may be unable to prevent colon cancer, over 90% of those diagnosed during the early stages survive more than five years.
While many of us struggle to take time out of our busy schedules for ourselves, it is necessary to prioritize preventative care. Colorectal cancer can be avoided with regular screenings, which is especially important for those who do not experience colorectal cancer symptoms.
In addition to making time for colorectal cancer screenings, understanding the different screening methods, and when you are due for them, is essential.
The most common screenings:
Additional Screening Options Available
One option that tends to be discussed far less than traditional cancer screenings is testing your stool for cancer, also known as a Fecal Occult Blood Test. Many are terrified when they think about the screening process associated with colon cancer, such as a colonoscopy. However, testing your stool is a non-invasive option for detecting cancer. These tests are easier to perform, though they are less likely to detect polyps. If you choose to perform a stool test and the results come back positive, a follow-up colonoscopy is necessary.
Fortunately, the death rate has been dropping for both men and women with colorectal cancer within the last 20 years. This is primarily associated with polyps being found during screenings and being removed before developing into cancer. Due to this screening process and more men and women finding their cancer in early stages, there have been more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States.
Who needs to be tested?
Individuals age 50 or older should be screened for colorectal cancer. This recommendation is due to the heightened risk of cancer with increasing age and because many overlook early colorectal cancer symptoms. More than 90% of cases are found in those who are age 50 and older. If colorectal cancer runs in your family, talk to your doctor today to schedule a screening.
Testing Before Surgery
At UnityPoint Health our specialized team offers comprehensive, same-day diagnostic stacked testing to help our patients get to surgery quicker. All testing is completed at UnityPoint Health - Methodist North, including MRI, CT and Proctosigmoidoscopy.
What are the risk factors associated with colorectal cancer?
There are many risk factors associated with colorectal cancers such as certain diets, age, physical inactivity and obesity. However, risk factors don't guarantee the development of cancer. If an individual does have colorectal cancer, it is challenging to know how heavily that risk factor contributed to the cancer. To decrease your likelihood of developing colorectal cancer, become familiar with the main ways to reduce your risk and the risk of your loved ones.
9 ways to reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle
- Consume sufficient amounts of calcium and vitamin D
- Avoid binge drinking
- Consume limited amounts of red meat
- Choose whole grains and refined grain products
- Avoid smoking or tobacco use
- Know your family history
- Get screened
Get Screened Today
UnityPoint Health wants to make sure that you and your loved ones take every preventable measure necessary when it comes to detecting signs of colorectal cancer. If you have further questions or feel that you may be at risk, contact your primary care provider.