By: Laura Gros, RN, CBCN, Patient Care Coordinator, Thibodaux Regional
Even though colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in
the country, it is also one of the easiest to detect and one of the most
curable. This month, during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, attention
focuses on the risks, warning signs and screenings that can save lives.
Despite screenings and positive outcomes for early detection, colorectal
cancer still remains one of the leading causes of cancer death for both
men and women in the U.S. Closer to home, Louisiana has one of the highest
incidence and mortality rates in the country. The risk is higher for African
Americans who are 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
Colorectal cancer, which begins as a growth or polyp in the colon or rectum,
affects all genders, ages and fitness levels. The alarming rise in cases
among younger adults prompted the American Cancer Society (ACS) to change
its guidelines for regular screening from age 50 to 45 for people considered
at average risk.
Like other elective procedures, screenings for colorectal cancer have declined
since the start of the pandemic. This month provides a good opportunity
for you to schedule a screening if you're not up to date. Talk with
your doctor about any concerns or call Thibodaux Regional Cancer Institute
at (985) 493-4008 for more information.
You can take control of your health and wellness by being aware of risk
factors, warning signs and screening options.
According to the ACS, colorectal cancer can strike anyone. Certain factors
increase the risks, which you can reduce with lifestyle changes such as:
- Eat a diet rich in fiber and calcium and with lots of fruits and green,
leafy vegetables; limit red meats and processed foods
- Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption
- Stay active; sedentary lifestyles can increase risk by 50 percent
- Maintain a healthy weight; obesity also increases the risk
- Cancer risks typically rise with age; however, continued increases in colorectal
cancer diagnoses for adults under 55 led the ACS to lower guidelines to
start screenings at age 45
- Genetics play a role in the likelihood of having colorectal cancer, which
is four times higher if you have a parent, sibling or child with the disease
Watching for warning signs.
High death rates occur due to the disease having metastasized and spread
to other parts of the body by the time it is diagnosed. A person can have
colon cancer without experiencing any symptoms for years. However, be
aware of the signs:
- Changes in bowel habits, such as persistent constipation or diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Persistent cramps, gas, bloating or abdominal pain
- Feeling that the bowel doesn't empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss.
Incidence rates in people of screening age have been declining in the U.S.
since the mid-1980s. The primary reasons to screen for colorectal cancer:
- It's preventable—The earlier cancer is detected, the better the
chances for a positive outcome. An estimated 50 percent of colorectal
cases resulting in death are preventable.
- It's treatable—Surgery to remove cancerous growths result in
cure approximately 50 percent of the time. Chemotherapy and radiation
therapy are also used for treatment, depending on the stage.
- It's easily detectable—A cancerous polyp can take from 10 to
15 years to develop into cancer. With regular screenings, doctors can
remove polyps before they turn into cancer.
Protect yourself against colorectal cancer or take steps to detect it early
by knowing your risks, watching for warning signs and getting screened.
For more information about screenings contact Thibodaux Regional Cancer