Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading killer in the United States. Colorectal cancer can occur in the colon or the rectum. The colon is the large intestine that leads into the passageway, the rectum. There are some factors that may put you more at risk for this cancer.
Risk Factors: The majority of colorectal cancer occurrences are in patients over age 50. African Americans and Jewish people from Eastern European backgrounds have a slightly higher risk. Other risk factors include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Diet low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber
- Use of alcohol or tobacco
- Genetic syndromes such as FAP or Lynch
Symptoms: If you experience any of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor right away.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Stomach pain or cramping that does not stop
- Blood in or on your stool
Diagnosis: If you suspect you may have risk factors or symptoms of colorectal cancer, your doctor can test you. He or she will take a medical background, screen you for polyps, and do a biopsy if polyps are found. This will determine if you have colorectal cancer.
Treatment: If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the treatment will depend upon the location of the cancer. Your treatment may be considered local and focus on killing the cancer directly in the colon or rectum. Systemic treatment uses the bloodstream to destroy cancer throughout the body.
- Surgery is the most common treatment. Early colorectal cancer may be removed via a small scope mechanism. Open surgery to remove the cancer and some parts of the organs may also be required.
- Chemotherapy enters the bloodstream and kills cancer cells throughout the body.
- Biological therapy uses antibodies that attack the cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy uses high energy rays to kill the cancer cells in a particular area.
Prevention: Regular screenings beginning at age 50 could prevent as many as 60% of deaths due to colorectal cancer. During a screening, lumps or polyps can be detected and destroyed before they become cancerous. Early detection increases survival rate significantly. If you have family risk factors, you may want to begin screening earlier.
You can also change your diet and lifestyle to prevent colorectal cancer. Increase your exercise to at least 3 heart-pumping sessions per week. Add more fruits, vegetables, and fiber to your diet. Lower your fat intake. Limit your drinking and stop smoking.
Regional Medical Center’s Cancer Care center can provide your screening, diagnosis and treatment. Don’t wait another moment. Colorectal cancer can be beaten if treated early.