Colorectal cancer/cancerous polyps – cancer of the colon and rectum – is the second-most common cancer in the United States, striking 140,000 people annually and causing 60,000 deaths. It is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United State for both men and women combined. That’s a staggering figure when you consider the disease is preventable, can be successfully treated, and is potentially curable if diagnosed in the early stages.
Common Questions About Cancer/Colon Polyps
Who is at Risk? Colorectal cancer/cancerous polyps strikes men and women with almost equal frequency. Though colorectal cancer/cancerous polyps may occur at any age, more than 90 percent of the patients are over age 40, at which point the risk doubles every 10 years. Surpassing both breast and prostate cancers in mortality, colorectal cancer/cancerous polyps is second only to lung cancer in numbers of deaths in the United States.
What are the Symptoms? Colorectal cancer/cancerous polyps is often a silent disease, developing with no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, the most common are rectal bleeding, blood in or on the stool, and changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea. (These symptoms are also common in other diseases, so it is important you receive a thorough examination should you experience them.) Additional symptoms may include stools that are narrower than usual, general stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness and/or cramps), vomiting, the feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, frequent gas pains, and constant tiredness. Abdominal pain and weight loss are usually late symptoms indicating possible extensive disease. If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, see your doctor or health professional immediately. Unfortunately, many colon polyps and early cancers fail to produce symptoms. Therefore, it is important that your routine physical includes colorectal cancer detection procedures once you reach age 40.
How is Colorectal Cancer/Cancerous Polyps Treated? Colorectal cancer treatment requires surgery in nearly all cases for complete cure. Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used in addition to surgery. Between 80 percent and 90 percent are restored to normal health if the cancer/polyps is detected and treated in the earliest stages. The cure rate drops to 50 percent or less when diagnosed in the later stages. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 lives a year could be saved through widespread adoption of colon cancer screening and early treatment of colon cancer in men and women. Thanks to modern technology, less than five percent of all colorectal cancer/polyps patients require a colostomy, the surgical construction of an artificial excretory opening from the colon.
Can Colon Cancer/Cancerous Polyps be Prevented? There are steps that reduce the risk of contracting the disease. To lower your risk of colorectal cancer/cancerous polyps, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons recommends that you:
Get regular colorectal cancer/polyps screenings such as a colonoscopy procedure after age 50.
The risk of developing colorectal cancer/polyps increases with age. All men and women aged 50 and older are at risk and should be screened.
Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet. As far as we know, a high-fiber, low-fat diet is the only dietary measure that might help prevent colorectal cancer/cancerous polyps.
If you use alcohol, drink only in moderation. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal and other gastrointestinal cancers.
Exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week. Moderate exercise such as walking, gardening, or climbing steps may help.
Can Hemorrhoids Lead to Colon Cancer? No, but hemorrhoids may produce symptoms similar to colon polyps or cancer. Should you experience these symptoms, you should have them examined and evaluated by a physician, preferably by a colon and rectal surgeon.
Colon Cancer & Genetics
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is estimated that, of the 150,000 cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year, five percent are inherited. This number may rise as more patients are identified by genetic testing for hereditary colorectal cancers. Awareness of both patients and their heathcare workers of hereditary colorectal cancer is vital. Identifying individuals with hereditary colorectal cancers is important for the prevention, surveillance and treatment of both patients and their families.
Common Questions About Colorectal Cancer
What are my Risks of Developing Hereditary Colorectal Cancer? In the general population, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is two percent. This number increases to eight percent with individuals with one first-degree relative with colorectal cancer and 17 percent when two first-degree relatives are affected.
How can I be Tested? Individuals with any of the above risk factors are provided with pretest genetic counseling. During counseling, patients fears and concerns about test results are addressed. Issues such as sharing tests results with family members, long-term implications of a positive test results such as colon cancer screening and treatment of colon cancer, and health insurance considerations are discussed. After appropriate pretest counseling and informed consent, testing is done by obtaining a blood sample. Testing is done at a genetic testing laboratory. If you have any questions about getting testing or whether you or your family are a candidate for testing, please contact us at (937) 435-8663. We provide a comprehensive program which involves patient screening, follow-up evaluation, and surgical colon cancer treatment if needed.