Colorectal Cancer: Preventable and Treatable
SIOUX FALLS (March 2, 2015) – It’s the cancer no one likes to talk about, yet colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers – and most treatable, if detected early.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – a time for all adults age 50 or over to consider the importance of regular colorectal screening.
Studies show that people who are screened have a 90 percent reduced risk of developing colon cancer. Yet nationwide, only about 50 percent of people who are eligible take advantage of regular screenings.
Colorectal cancer causes more than 50,000 deaths per year nationwide. Specifically for men and women, colorectal is the third most prevalent cancer and third leading cause of cancer deaths. One in 20 will be affected by colorectal cancer during their lifetime.
Colon screenings are recommended beginning at age 50. Colorectal cancer peaks at age 60, so colorectal screening should begin 10 years earlier, when doctors can spot and remove polyps that might eventually become cancerous. Finding and removing precancerous polyps virtually eliminates the potential for cancer.
“Colonoscopy is the ‘gold standard’ in colorectal screening, as it is the most sensitive and effective test for detecting colon polyps,” said Cristina Hill Jensen, MD, with Avera Medical Group Gastroenterology Sioux Falls.
A colonoscopy is needed only every 10 years, or more often if polyps are detected. Earlier screening is recommended for African Americans or for those with a family history of colorectal cancer.
It’s not uncommon for people to fear pain or embarrassment. Yet sedative medications make the procedure itself very comfortable. In fact, many patients wake up after it’s over and don’t realize the test has even taken place. The aspect patients probably dislike the most is colon prep for the test, which involves drinking liquid laxative the night before the exam to cleanse the colon.
Even if a polyp becomes cancerous, the cancer is very treatable surgically. When detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate of colorectal cancer is 90 percent. Unfortunately, only 40 percent of colorectal cancers are diagnosed at this early stage, in part due to the underuse of screening, the American Cancer Society reports. Colorectal cancer that has spread beyond the colon to lymph nodes or other organs may require additional treatment of chemotherapy and radiation.
In addition to getting regular screenings, you can lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Eat a diet low in red meat and high in fruits and vegetables
- Get plenty of physical activity
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- If you drink, drink only in moderation
Schedule a colonoscopy by contacting your primary care provider or visit www.Avera.org/colon to learn more and read patient stories.