The campaign for National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is “Don’t Assume.” The goal of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance is to eliminate misconceptions about colorectal cancer. We echo this campaign as we inform you about the risks of colorectal cancer and encourage you to get screened. A colonoscopy truly could be a life-saving procedure. We’ll show you why you can’t assume anything when it comes to colorectal cancer.
Cancer that develops in the large intestine is identified as colon cancer. Rectal cancer describes cancer found in the rectum, the passageway between the colon and the anus. Both colon and rectal cancers are extremely difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. That’s because the first clues to cancer are found in the form of polyps. Polyps are abnormal growths in the tissue of the colon and rectum. Polyps are noncancerous at first. Over time, some can develop into cancer and spread. In most cases, symptoms of colorectal cancer are identified once cancer reaches a late stage. This is why a colonoscopy is so important. It identifies the presence of polyps before they become cancerous.
There are many reasons symptoms of colorectal cancer can be confusing. First, because there are no symptoms associated with polyps and the early stages of cancer. This is why colorectal cancer is known as the silent killer. Second, because when symptoms do arise they are similar to the symptoms associated with an array of gastrointestinal problems. This includes a change in bowel habits like different stool consistency, blood in your stool, or regular diarrhea or constipation. Feeling bloated or feeling like you’re unable to empty your bowel are also common symptoms. Cramping and abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, or unintended weight loss are all reasons to call your GI doctor. While these could be symptoms of another less serious GI problem, they could signify colorectal cancer.
Advanced colorectal cancer can be a life-threatening diagnosis. In fact, it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. This statistic is high because the number of people who receive regular colonoscopies is low. When found early, colon cancer is over 90% curable. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as a result of age, race, and genetics. You are at a higher risk if a close family member has developed colorectal cancer, especially at a young age. Gender doesn’t increase the risk of cancer development, but age does. Men and women experience a greater risk as they get older. Another important risk factor is race. African Americans are at a higher risk. If you are at a higher risk, you should not put off screening. We also encourage you to take precautions to help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. If possible, avoid consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Eat a healthy diet that is high in fiber and low in fat. And commit to exercising three days a week for at least twenty minutes.
Another important factor in scheduling your screening colonoscopy is cost. If you are at least 50 years of age, most insurance policies cover your first colon screening at no out of pocket expense to the patient. An important consideration is this is for patients with no symptoms. If you have a positive result while using an at-home test, and are referred for a colonoscopy, your test will be subject to whatever deductibles come with your policy. Make sure you are fully informed and use your resources carefully.
Remember, colorectal cancer doesn’t have to be a deadly diagnosis. Schedule a screening colonoscopy so that your GI doctor can detect the presence of colorectal cancer when it is still in a treatable stage. A colonoscopy can also identify and remove pre-cancerous polyps and prevent cancer from developing altogether. Colorectal cancer doesn’t have to be a deadly disease when you make regular screenings a priority. If you are between 45 and 50 years old, schedule a colonoscopy at Carolina Digestive today. Don’t assume it can wait.