The month of March is normally known as the beginning of spring time with people stating the saying March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Many people don’t know that March is also known a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal Cancer affects both men and women and is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Each year about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 people die from this disease each year. Colorectal Cancer increases with age. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years and older. You should begin your screening at age 50 and keep getting regular screening till age 75.One concern is that Precancerous Polyps and Colorectal Cancer do not always present symptoms at first. That is why a screening test is so important.
What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer? These symptoms include blood in or on the stool (your bowel movement), stomach pain, aches and cramps that don’t go away and unexplained weight loss are just a few. Some people are at a higher risk than others especially if you have anyone of these: inflammatory bowel disease, personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps and genetic syndromes which include hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch Syndrome) and/ or familial adenomatous polyposis. If you have experienced any of the symptoms it is best to talk to your doctor.
There are several tests available to screen for colorectal cancer. Some tests can be used alone and some in a combination form. First and for most is a Colonoscopy.( Every 10 years starting at age 50)This is a procedure that uses a thin flexible camera through the anus to check for abnormalities or disease in your lower intestine or colon. Your doctor may take tissue samples for a biopsy and remove abnormal tissues such as polyps.
A high sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT)( every year).FOBT is when stool is put on a special card or cloth and sent to a lab. The lab uses chemicals to find blood that the naked eye cannot see. FIT test is very similar and can be done at home. You take a stool sample, place in a tube and bring to the lab. This test too detects signs of blood in the stool.
Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years) is a medical procedure that involves the doctor to look into the rectum as well as the sigmoid colon or the descending colon using a Sigmoidoscope. This is similar to a colonoscopy but less evasive.
Studies suggest that people can reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer by increasing physical activities, eating fruits and vegetables, limiting alcohol consumption and of course avoiding tobacco.
Prevention can be the best medicine of all. If you have turned 50 make sure you make an appointment for your colonoscopy. Remember if you take care of your body, your body will take care of you.