Would you idly stand by while a killer attacks a loved one?
Not very likely. Most individuals would do all within their power to prevent such an attack.
Colorectal cancer should be considered such an attack, say local health officials.
“While this cancer can be a killer it doesn’t always have to be,” said Dr. Sebastian Abadie, board certified gastroenterologist. “Early detection is so very important, along with knowing the signs, symptoms and risk factors associated with colorectal cancer.”
The American Cancer Society reports an estimated 102,480 cases of colon and 40,340 cases of rectal cancer are expected to occur in 2013. An estimated 50,830 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected to occur in 2013, accounting for 9 percent of all cancer deaths.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women. Incidence rates have been decreasing for most of the past two decades, which has largely been attrib¬uted to improvements in early detection and treatment.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Month. Laurinburg surgeons Drs. Brian Parkes and Steve Lanuti, gastroenterologist Dr. Sebastian Abadie, and oncologists Dr. Kelvin Raybon and Chip Helms believe there’s no better time to learn the facts and take action to prevent this disease.
“Colon cancer is unlike most cancers in that it starts as a small growth or polyp in the colon,”said Abadie. “It takes several years for a polyp to grow into a cancer, which makes colon cancer easy to diagnose at an early stage. Typically, there are no early symptoms with colon cancer, which makes a screening colonoscopy incredibly important. In later stages of colon cancer, patients may experience abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or a colon blockage, and often treatment may be more extensive.”
Good news, bad news
The good news is that the death rate from colorectal cancer has decreased over the past 15 years.
“The incidence of CRC begins to rise rapidly after age 50 and continues to climb through the rest of our lives,” Parkes said. “While a family history of CRC or adenomatous polyps increases the risk, inherited cases only account for 20 percent of total cases. Approximately 120,000 persons diagnosed with CRC this year will have no identified risk factor other than age.”
The ACS recommends that men and women should have a screening colonoscopy at age 50, your best bet for catching CRC early, or even preventing it in the first place. “Some individuals are high risk and may need a colonoscopy at an earlier age,” said Lanuti. “These are individuals with a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps or have a family member diagnosed with colon cancer at an early age. Native Americans and African Americans should begin colonoscopy screenings at age 45. Patients with a personal history of other types of cancer are also susceptible for colon cancer and should be screened at an earlier age. Unfortunately, many men and women choose to avoid this life-saving opportunity, citing the uncomfortable prep, the use of sedation, and the possible dangers. While there are other screening options, they are not as effective as a colonoscopy.”
Dr. Kelvin Raybon, medical oncologist with Scotland Cancer Treatment Center, is a strong advocate of colonoscopy screenings.
“While the medical treatment of colon and rectal cancer has dramatically improved in the last five years, surgery is still the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. For cancers that have not spread, surgical removal may be curative. Chemotherapy alone, or in combination with radiation, may be used before or after sur¬gery for those patients whose cancer has deeply penetrated the bowel wall or spread to lymph nodes.
STEPS TO REDUCE YOUR CANCER RISK
In addition to screening colonoscopies beginning at the appropriate age, other steps might reduce your risk of getting colon or rectal cancer, including:
• Diet and exercise: It is important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods and to limit intake of high-fat foods. Getting enough exercise is also important. The ACS recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days of the week. Forty-five to 60 minutes of exercise on five or more days of the week is even better.
• Female hormones: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women after menopause may reduce their risk of getting CRC. But those women on HRT who do get CRC may have a fast growing cancer. The decision to use HRT should be based on a careful discussion of benefits and risks with your doctor.
• Other factors: Genetic tests can also help tell which members of certain families have inherited a high risk for getting colorectal cancer. The results of genetic tests can help people make screening and treatment decisions.
Know the risk factors for colorectal cancer
• Age: While younger adults can develop colorectal cancer, your chances of developing colorectal cancer increase markedly after age 50. More than ninety percent of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are older than 50.
• A personal history of colorectal cancer: If you have had CRC, even though it has been completely removed, you are more likely to develop new cancers in other areas of the colon and rectum. The chances of this happening are greater if you had your first colorectal cancer when you were age 60 or younger.
• A personal history of colorectal polyps: If you have had an adenomatous-type polyp, you are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. This is especially true if the polyps are large or if there are many of them.
• A personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, is a condition in which the colon is inflamed over a long period of time. If you have IBD, your risk of developing colorectal cancer is increased. Often the first sign that cancer may be developing is called dysplasia. Dysplasia is a term that refers to abnormal cells that have the potential to progress to cancer. Inflammatory bowel disease is different than irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which does not carry an increased risk for colorectal cancer.
• A family history of colorectal cancer: Some cancers can “run in the family” because something in the environment has contributed to the development of cancer and/or because certain family members were born with, or inherited, an increased genetic susceptibility to cancer. While most colorectal cancers occur in people without a family history of colorectal cancer, those with a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps in any first-degree relative younger than age 60, or in two or more first-degree relatives at any age are considered at increased risk for the disease. (First-degree relatives are defined as parents, siblings, and children.)
“I encourage anyone age 50 or older who has not had a screening colonoscopy to schedule one today,” Abadie said. “And, if your mother, father, sister, or brother was diagnosed with colon cancer, you are at increased risk and should have a screening colonoscopy at least ten years before the age of the person who had the colon cancer.”
Talk to your physician if you have any of the risk factors listed here. Schedule your appointment for a colonoscopy. The cost of this important screening is covered by Medicare. Your physician will make the determination if you are a candidate for a colonoscopy at The Scotland Endoscopy Center or at Scotland Memorial.
For more information about colorectal cancer, visit www.cancer.org