The Gastroenterology Department at Bergen Regional Medical Center Provides Tips to Prevent, Detect and Treat One of the Most Common Cancers
Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States. It is also the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in America and strikes both men and women equally. Although colon cancer can be deadly, the death rate has been going down for the past 15 years. One reason is because colorectal cancer is both preventable and often curable if it is detected early.
The exact cause of colorectal cancer is unknown, however many cases start as small, noncancerous clumps of cells called polyps. There are several tests that can detect these polyps even if there are no symptoms present. Knowing the factors that may increase your risk of developing this disease can help you decide when to begin getting screened.
About 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are age 50 or older, although that does not mean it cannot affect people younger than that. If you are over 50 consider scheduling regular preventative screenings and diagnostic tests. Symptoms are not always present, so these tests may find polyps or other irregularities early.
Family history of colon cancer
If you have close relatives - parents, siblings, or children - who have had this cancer, you may be at increased risk, especially if your relative got the cancer at a younger age. Also, people of African-American and Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish decent have a higher colorectal cancer risk and may need to begin testing before age 50.
Lifestyle choices, such as eating large amounts of processed meats, smoking, not exercising and heavy alcohol use have been linked to colorectal cancer. In fact, the links between diet, weight, and exercise and colorectal cancer risk are some of the strongest for any type of cancer. Diets high in vegetables and fruits have been linked with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
While it is possible to have no symptoms early on, they may appear as the disease progresses. Symptoms include blood in the stool; bleeding from the rectum; changes in constitution of stool, including diarrhea, constipation or narrow stools; and frequently having gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated. Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. They can be caused by a variety of illnesses and your doctor can screen for other causes.
If you have any of these risk factors be sure to speak with your doctor so that you can choose the best prevention and screening plan for you. Colorectal cancer is not only easily treated when detected early, it can be prevented through regular screenings.