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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Early Screening can Save Lives

CDC

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness that early screening for colorectal cancer can save lives. Colorectal cancer is silent for many years and by the time there are symptoms it may already be in an advanced stage and may no longer be treatable. However, the earlier it is detected, the better is the chance to drive it into remission..

Presidential Message on National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The President of the United States delivered a message March 1, 2020, from the Whitehouse on National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to remember all the brave men and women who have died battling colorectal cancer. He noted that more than 50,000 Americans die each year from colorectal cancer. According to the President, about 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could have been prevented by early screening and treatment. Screening is recommended for all adults ages 50 to 75. However, if there is a family history of colorectal cancer, screening may be necessary before age 50.

Death Rates for most Cancers Continue to Fall

The President also stated that in spite of these statistics there is reason to be optimistic, as the United States is moving ahead with innovative advanced cancer treatments. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services recently reported that death rates for most cancers are continuing to fall among men, women and children in the United States. Research has shown good lifestyle habits can help to prevent the development of cancer. Also, early detection and ongoing research is leading to new treatments. The hope is that all types of cancers, including colorectal cancer, can be prevented or treated and go into remission.

To read more about new cancer treatments see our blog post from December 18, 2018.

Facts about Colorectal Cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for cancers that affect both men and women.
  • Every year, about 140,000 people in the United States get colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.
  • The risk for colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancers develop in people who are 50 years old or older.
  • Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer do not always cause symptoms, especially in the early stages. If you have symptoms, they may include blood in or on the stool, stomach pain that doesn’t go away or a sudden loss of weight for no reason. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor.
  • Only about two-thirds of adults in the United States are up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening.

Types of Screening Tests for Colorectal Cancer

There are several types of screening test options. Discuss with your doctor about which type of screening test is best for you. The CDC provides the following information about screening tests for colorectal cancer:

Stool Tests

The guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) uses the chemical guaiac to detect blood in the stool. This test is carried out at home once a year. You need to collect a tiny bit of stool and this is given back to your doctor or to a lab to check for blood in the stool.

The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool. It is also done once a year in the same way as a gFOBT.

The FIT-DNA test (also referred to as the stool DNA test) combines the FIT with a test that detects altered DNA in the stool. For this test, you collect an entire bowel movement. This is sent to a lab, where it is checked for cancer cells. This test is carried out once every 1-3 years.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

For a flexible sigmoidoscopy the doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon. This test is carried out every 5 years or every 10 years if a FIT is done every year.

Colonoscopy

The colonoscopy is similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. This test usually requires some form of sedation. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. Colonoscopy also is used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during one of the other screening tests. A colonoscopy is administered every 10 years unless there is an increased risk for colorectal cancer.

CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy)

Computed tomography (CT) colonography, also called a virtual colonoscopy, uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon, which are displayed on a computer screen for the doctor to analyze. This is carried out every 5 years. However, if pre-cancerous polyps are found a regular colonoscopy has to be carried out in order to remove them.

The Need for Rehabilitation or Skilled Nursing Care after Cancer Treatment or Surgery

If you or your loved one are in need of short-term rehabilitation or skilled nursing care after cancer treatment or surgery, check out the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York. Van Duyn offers expert care at the hands of a warm and caring staff.

Conclusion

It certainly pays to do colon cancer screening in order to save lives.

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