Colorectal Cancer

August 5, 2017

The National Cancer Institute reports that over 136,000 people were diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer, and over 50,000 people died from this condition in the US last year, making it the second leading cause of death from cancer in the country. Some racial groups–minorities in particular—seem to suffer from this condition more than others, according to Dr. Jonca Bull, director of the Office of Minority Health for the FDA. The minority population (American Indians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Alaska Natives) is hit hard primarily because of limited access to medical treatment and screening. The biggest remedy for treating this condition is to attack it head on by doing early detection so the patient can be referred and treated, which will decrease the number of deaths occurring from this condition.

The Signs of Colorectal Cancer

The development of polys or other precancerous growths in the rectum (or colon) can turn into colorectal cancer. However, there may not be any outward symptoms if you have precancerous growths. Screening will help your doctor see what’s going on, so the growths or questionable can be removed if needed.

Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer increases if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a history of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer
  • Have certain genetic syndromes (such as FAP or Lynch)
  • Have a personal history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer

You should see your doctor also if you have any of these Symptoms, even though they do not necessarily indicate colorectal cancer:

  • Frequent bloating, fullness, cramps or gas pains
  • Unexpected Weight loss
  • A change in bowel habits (such as constipation, diarrhea and the sensation that the bowel does not empty completely)
  • Bright or dark blood in stool
  • Stools narrower than usual
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling very tired

The Benefits of Screening

Thanks to screening, surgery and medication, a lot of people with colorectal cancer are seeing a longer lifespan. Companion diagnostics are being conducted to determine if some people are less receptive to some medications than others due to genetic mutations.

There are also clinical trials available for those wishing to participate in research to discover new approaches to treating the condition. If you are considering a clinical trial, make sure you talk this over with your family and your health care provider.

How can I reduce my risk?

Your race, ethnicity, age, medical history, and other factors may increase your risk for colorectal cancer. Here are some ways to reduce the risk:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke
  • Exercise often and vigorously
  • Eat healthy (adopt a diet high in fruits and vegetables but low in processed and red meats)
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Maintain a healthy weight
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