March is Colorectal Awareness Month and it provides an opportunity nationwide to promote awareness of Colorectal Cancer Prevention by early detection. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is treatable and preventable, although it is a common and lethal disease. In the United States, there are approximately 150,000 new cases diagnosed a year.
Who is at risk? You are.
Men and women are equally affected. Five percent of the population will eventually develop this disease. Last year, Kentucky had greater than 2,300 newly diagnosed cases. Prevention of colorectal cancer becoming a lethal disease is based on early diagnosis. Screening tests can identify colorectal cancer at an early and potentially treatable stage.
There are several factors that increase your risk for colorectal cancer. These factors include having a family history of colorectal cancer, increasing age, personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, as well as a prior history of colon polyps. Lifestyle risk factors include smoking, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, dietary choices and physical inactivity.
Patients at average risk should undergo testing at age 50. African Americans have a higher colorectal cancer risk and mortality rate than Caucasians. As a result of these statistics, African Americans should start screening tests at age 45. We encourage every person to discuss their risk factors with their physician to determine needs for screening tests.
Cancer screening is the process of looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease. There are several different tests that may be utilized for colorectal screening.
The tests that can find colorectal polyps and cancer include a colonoscopy, or special X-ray tests. During a colonoscopy, polyps or small growths can be found and removed before the polyp becomes cancerous. The special imaging X-ray tests can detect abnormalities in the colon and the patient is referred for treatment.
Colonoscopy screenings can reduce a person’s risk of developing colon cancer by 90 percent. There are less invasive tests that can be utilized for screening tools, but are less likely to detect polyps. Again, we encourage every person to discuss their screening needs with their physician.
We are advocates for and support screenings to prevent Colorectal Cancer with our message being: colon cancer is preventable and treatable through early detection. Early detection is the key to preventing Kentucky colorectal statistics from increasing in 2013.
If you are interested in learning more on Colorectal Cancer Prevention, go to www.cancer.org.
Dr. John Shekleton is a local gastroenterologist. Angie Phillips is the Director of Outpatient Nursing Services, which includes the endoscopy unit at Frankfort Regional Medical Center.