March marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Dr. John Haydek from Gastrointestinal Associates joined us to answer some of the most common questions about this type of cancer.
Q: What is colorectal cancer?
A: Colorectal cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the colon or rectum that forms growths called polyps.
Q: How common is colorectal cancer?
A: Colorectal cancer is among the top four cancers diagnosed annually in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that almost 150,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year.
Q: What is the survival rate?
A: The survival rate is 90% at five years when detected early, but once colorectal cancer spreads, the survival rate goes down drastically.
Q: How do you detect colorectal cancer?
A: The best way to find and prevent colon cancer is with a colonoscopy. During the procedure, we can identify polyps and remove them and biopsy any areas of concern.
* Our board-certified physicians at Gastrointestinal Associates perform approximately 15,000 colonoscopies every year.
* We surpass national benchmarks for finding and removing precancerous polyps.
* Healthy patients with no symptoms or family history can have their first colonoscopy at age 50. If you have symptoms or any family history, you may need a screening before 50.
Q: Are there symptoms we should look for?
A; If you have a change in bowel habits that is persistent such as constipation or diarrhea, blood in your stool or rectal bleeding, unusual fatigue or nausea or ongoing abdominal pain, make an appointment with a specialist.
* There can be symptoms, but sometimes there are no signs, which is why screening is important.
Q: Can lifestyle changes decrease the risk for colorectal cancer?
A: Yes, and the changes also lead to better overall health, so consider a healthy diet with decreased fat and increased fiber. There’s a lower colorectal cancer risk in people who maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke and get regular physical activity.
* The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is through screenings such as colonoscopies.
* At Gastrointestinal Associates, we want to end colorectal cancer through preventive care.
* Efforts to increase general awareness – like we’re doing right now – have led to a decrease in colorectal cancer death rates in older Americans through screening and early detection.
* But we can do more. Please see a specialist and get screened.