The Coastal Wave
The Coastal Wave is the monthly newsletter of Coastal Health & Wellness.
Regular screenings offer best prevention against colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer screenings save lives. Regular screenings, beginning at age 45, is key to preventing the disease.
Colorectal cancer affects both men and women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. March marks National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to highlight risks and symptoms.
Men and women ages 45-75 should be screened for colorectal cancer regularly. Those older than 75 should ask their doctor if they should be screened and how often, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Screenings allow your doctor to find pre-cancerous polyps. That’s good because those polyps can then be removed before possibly becoming cancerous,” said Cynthia Ripsin, MS, MPH, MD, medical director for Coastal Health & Wellness (CHW). “Polyps are abnormal growths and over time may turn into cancer.”
One screening option is the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) screening. This screening tests for hidden blood in the stool, a symptom of colorectal cancer. CHW offers FIT screenings to insured and uninsured patients. Uninsured patients who have positive test results also qualify for a free colonoscopy.
Each year, an estimated 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer with more than 50,000 dying from the disease. Risk for the disease increases with age. More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people who are 50 years old or older, according to the CDC.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to get regular screenings. Not only could pre-cancerous polyps be found and removed, early cancer can be found while it’s still early and treatment is most effective,” Ripsin said.
Risks include a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer. However, colon cancer is the third most common cancer, excluding skin cancer, in the United States so even if no one in your family has ever had colon cancer you still are at risk. Other risk factors include Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer.
Symptoms may include blood in or on stool, stomach pain and aches or cramps that do not go away and losing weight with no known reason. While these symptoms may also be caused by something other than colorectal cancer, it’s important to contact a healthcare provider if symptoms are present.
“There aren’t always symptoms when you have pre-cancerous polyps and colorectal cancer, especially in the early stages,” Ripsin said. “That’s why regular screenings are so important.”
What can you do to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer?
- According to the CDC, medical experts often recommend a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease and diabetes. This diet may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Research is underway to find out if changes to your diet can reduce your colorectal cancer risk.
- Researchers are looking at the role of some medicines and supplements in preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that taking low-dose aspirin can help prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in some adults, depending on age and risk factors, according to the CDC.
- Some studies, according to the CDC, suggest that people may reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco.
For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal.