Living Well: Colorectal cancer 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S.
Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.
One of the best prevention tools is regular screening. Dr. Jeffrey Womble — who is chief of staff, chief of surgery, chief of trauma and medical director for anesthesia at Memorial Regional Health — said the standard recommendation is that everyone aged 50 to 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer, but it may need to begin earlier if there is a family history of colorectal cancer.
“It has been estimated that if we could get everyone screened the way it is recommended, we could prevent over 90 percent of colorectal cancers,” Dr. Womble said.
Screening for colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps, which are abnormal growths, in the colon or rectum.
Colonoscopies are recommended about every 10 years for people who do not have an increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to the CDC. Colonoscopies allow physicians to both detect suspicious polyps and remove them all in the same visit.
In Craig, Dr. Womble performs 100 to 200 colonoscopies per year.
“Colonoscopy is a way to screen for colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps,” Dr. Womble said. “It can also be used to diagnose issues with the colon like looking for sources of chronic diarrhea, bleeding, etc.”
The procedure is done in the hospital and necessitates drinking fluids the day before, known as bowel prep (it’s not as bad as it sounds). On the day of the procedure, an IV is started and patients are given sedatives.
The colonoscope is then inserted into the rectum and passed through the colon to where it connects to the small intestine. It is then withdrawn and polyps are removed or biopsies are taken as needed, Dr. Womble said.
The scope is then fully removed and the patient is taken back to the room where they started. They are given something to eat or drink and when they are adequately recovered from the sedation, they can go home. Dr. Womble said they need a ride home because of the sedation.
Besides a colonoscopy, there are other screening options including a sigmoidoscopy, which looks at just the lower part of the colon. There are also stool tests: the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) check for blood in the stool. The FOBT is a good test, but it can create false positives if blood is present for other reasons, such as hemorrhoids, certain medicines or even eating beef the night before.
With medical expertise, state-of-the-art equipment and new surgery suites at The Memorial Hospital, Memorial Regional Health is a great option for elective or urgent surgery. Talk to your doctor about surgery at MRH, or call 970-826-2420.
More about colorectal cancer
- 1 in 3 people are not up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening.
- 1 in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
- There will be an estimated 140,250 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2019.
- Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined in the United States.
- Among adults aged 50 to 75 years, one-fourth have never been screened.
- 25 percent of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer have a family history. Know your cancer risk.
- 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening.
Source: Fight Colorectal Cancer
What is colorectal cancer?
Cancer starts when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum, and might be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start, according to the American Cancer Society.
The colon and rectum make up the large intestine (or large bowel), which is part of the digestive system, also called the gastrointestinal (GI) system.
“Most colorectal cancers develop first as polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that may later become cancerous if not removed,” according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “When discovered early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. Even if it spreads into nearby lymph nodes, surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy is highly effective.”