Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know
Over 140,000 people a year are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the third most common type of cancer in the United States. The good news, however, is that with regular screenings and early detection, this type of cancer can be treatable. March is Colorectal Cancer awareness month, which makes it a perfect time to educate yourself on the symptoms, and what to watch for in yourself or your loved ones.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is any type of cancer that affects the colon and rectum. It develops when tumors grow in the large intestine.
The common symptoms of colorectal cancer can be easily mistaken for other ailments, so it’s important to pay attention and communicate with your doctor to ensure you get the proper tests. Screenings can involve a few steps, and mostly commonly start with a colonoscopy or stool-based tests. Here are some of the symptoms you should be aware of:
- Changes in bowel movements
- Bleeding rectum or blood in stool
- Bloating and pain in the stomach
- A constant feeling of fullness, even when you haven’t eaten recently
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained iron deficiency
Approximately 1 in 23 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, with some people being more at risk than others. Here are some common factors that lead to this disease:
- Age: colorectal cancer is most common in people over 50 years old
- Genetics: African Americans have the highest rate out of all racial groups in the US
- Family history: 20% of people with colorectal cancer also have a family member with the diagnosis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Low physical activity
- Personal history of cancer or polyps
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- Heavy use of alcohol
- Diets high in processed meats or red meat
- Low intake of fiber-rich vegetables and fruit
There are several factors that come into play when deciding on treatment. These include the stage of the cancer, the size, location, and overall health of the patient. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and ablation.
As always, noticing the warning signs and catching the disease in its earliest stages vastly improves your chances of stopping it before it gets worse, and allows you to take the necessary steps to get healthy. If you or someone you love show these symptoms, talk to your primary care doctor about scheduling a screening today.
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