By: Laura Gros, RN, CBCN, Patient Care Coordinator
Despite the availability of various screenings and positive outcomes for
early detection, colorectal cancer remains the third leading cause of
cancer death in the United States. Louisiana has one of the highest incidence
and mortality rates in the country.
Cancer that starts as a growth or polyp in the colon is called colon cancer.
When it begins in the rectum, it is rectal cancer. If the point of origin
is either organ—both of which are part of the large intestine—it
may be referred to as colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer affects all genders and races, with African Americans
at a 20% higher risk of having the disease. Due to an increase in cases
among younger adults, healthcare experts now recommend that screenings
for persons with average risk should begin at age 45 and continue every
10 years afterwards if results are normal.
When caught early, it is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers
with an average 90% five-year survival rate. So why does it continue to
be the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and third leading cause of
cancer death in this country? According to the American Cancer Society,
it's due to only about 66% of adults over age 50 being up to date
on their screenings.
While a colonoscopy remains the gold standard of screenings, there are
several other options including at-home stool sample tests that can alert
you to anything suspicious.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to
schedule a screening. Talk with your doctor about any concerns or call
Thibodaux Regional Cancer Institute at (985) 493-4008 to find out more
about screening tests recommended by the National Cancer Institute.
The most well-known screening procedure is a colonoscopy. With the patient
sedated, the doctor inserts a thin, tube-like colonoscope through the
rectum and into the colon. A light and lens attached to the scope allow
close views of possible growths or polyps. With this one-stop test, the
doctor can also remove precancerous polyps before they cause other problems.
It takes about 10 years for polyps to turn into cancer.
Similar to a colonoscopy, this procedure also uses a thin, tube-like instrument
with a light and lens to look inside the rectum and sigmoid—or lower
colon—for polyps, abnormal areas or cancer. Polyps or tissue samples
may also be removed during a sigmoidoscopy for a closer look under a microscope
for signs of cancer.
Fecal occult blood test (FQBT)
With the FQBT, patients collect stool samples in containers that are sent
to their doctor or laboratory. Technicians check the sample under a microscope
for blood, which may be a sign of polyps, cancer or other conditions.
DNA stool test
The at-home DNA stool test—known by the brand name Cologuard®—checks
for genetic changes in stool cells that could indicate colorectal cancer.
Results of either the FQBT or DNA stool test can be effective when done
regularly. However, anything suspicious requires a follow-up colonoscopy.
While most screening tests have risks, colorectal cancer often doesn't
cause symptoms in the early stages. The primary reasons to screen for
colorectal cancer are:
- It's preventable—The earlier cancer is detected, the better the
survival chances. An estimated 50 percent of colorectal cases resulting
in death are preventable.
- It's treatable—Surgery to remove cancerous growths results in
cure approximately 50 percent of the time.
- It's easily detectable—A cancerous polyp can take from 10 to
15 years to develop into cancer. With early detection, doctors can remove
polyps before they become cancerous.
Stay up to date on screenings to lower your colorectal cancer risk. To
learn more talk with your healthcare provider or call Thibodaux Regional
Cancer Institute at (985) 493-4008.