Because March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, many doctors are drawing attention to the importance of colon cancer screenings and understanding the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, colorectal cancer, which is cancer of the colon or rectum, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
“Colon cancer is a disease with high morbidity and mortality in the United States, but it can be prevented through routine colon cancer screening,” said Stephen Chiu, M.D.
Chiu works for FirstHealth Richmond Medical Group-Internal Medicine & Family Care. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine.
Shoukath Ansari, M.D., said that one out of five Americans are at risk for developing colon cancer or colon polyps. Ansari is the gastroenterologist for Sandhills Regional Medical Center and he also has two practices, Marlboro Gastroenterology and Sandhills Endoscopy Center.
“In the general population, colon cancer is preceded by the formation of polyps within the colon. Colon polyps may be either non-cancerous or pre-cancerous. A pre-cancerous colon polyp may ultimately become colon cancer. Therefore, removing colon polyps early during routine screening can prevent full blown cancer in the future,” Chiu said.
Chiu said there a several ways to perform a colon cancer screening, but a colonoscopy is currently “the gold standard used since it allows for both visualization and removal of colon polyps. Normally, a colonoscopy is repeated every 10 years if no polyps are seen. However, more frequent colonoscopies may be recommended if multiple polyps are seen or if pre-cancerous polyps are identified.”
Ansari said that a colonoscopy is very important because it helps the doctors detect polyps earlier. Not all polyps are cancerous, but the earlier doctors can remove a polyp, the less likely the polyp will become cancerous. Ansari said that polyps are removed at the time of the colonoscopy and sent off to be tested. If the tested polyp is cancerous, surgery must be performed.
“It is important to understand that polyps are not associated with any particular symptoms, which is why routine screening is recommended for the well adult over 50 years of age,” said Chiu.
Ansari said the biggest problem with colon cancer is that most patients show no symptoms at all. But, the symptoms that a person should look out for are rectal bleeding, change in bowel habit, constipation, diarrhea and weight loss.
Although 50 is the age a healthy adult should begin colon screening, according to the Mayo Clinic, people with a family history of colon cancer, or those who experience symptoms should consider having a colon screening sooner.
The Mayo Clinic suggests maintaining a healthy diet and weight, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption are ways to lower the risk of colon cancer.
— Staff Writer Laura Edington can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.