Story by: Dr. John Langley, IACH
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is cancer involving the colon or rectum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S., but it doesn't have to be. If everyone aged 50 years or older had regular screening tests, at least 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.
It is estimated that 142,820 men and women were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 50,830 died of cancer of the colon and rectum in 2012, according to the American Cancer Society. The most common symptoms of colon cancer are blood in the stool, abdominal pain and change in bowel habit, low blood count, weight loss and weakness. Often, colorectal cancer can be present with no symptoms at all in the early stages.
Irwin Army Community Hospital offers colorectal cancer screening to all military beneficiaries. Colorectal screening tests have the ability to identify pre-cancerous growths, called polyps or early-stage cancer, which is potentially treatable.
Screening tests for colorectal cancer can reduce risks by up to 90 percent. Colorectal cancer screening should occur in all adults 50 years or older, or sooner depending on a person's personal risk factors. Risk factors include a Family history of colon or rectal cancers, especially in first-degree relatives like a mother, father or brothers and sisters; a Family member who developed cancer at an earlier age – less than 55 years; having personally been diagnosed with prior colon cancer or polyps; or being diagnosed with an inherited polyp syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.
Precancerous polyps and early-stage colorectal cancer do not always cause symptoms, especially at first. This means someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important.
It is important to discuss colorectal cancer screening with a primary care provider. There are several options for colorectal cancer screening, and after hearing the risks and benefits of each test, a person can help decide which screening method is best for him or her. Talk to a primary care provider during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Those who are 50 years or older or are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, should get screened today. Call 785-239-DOCS (3627) for an appointment.