Colorectal cancer is currently the third leading cause of cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. This unique form of cancer is often called the silent killer because it is so difficult to detect. Unfortunately, these statistics don’t have to be this high. If the majority of Americans over the age of 50 received a regular colonoscopy, the number of diagnoses and deaths would significantly decrease. At Asheville Gastroenterology, we want you to know how you can avoid both colon and rectal cancer.
What’s the Point of a Colonoscopy?
When colorectal cancer is detected in an early stage, it is absolutely treatable. According to the American Cancer Society, recipients of a stage 1 colon cancer diagnosis had a 92% chance of five-year survival. Patients with stage 1 rectal cancer had a five-year survival rate of 88%. Patients with stage four colon and rectal cancer experienced a five-year survival rate of 13% and 12%, respectively. Because there are no symptoms associated with early stages of colorectal cancer, it is extremely difficult to identify without a colonoscopy. But, the good news is that a colonoscopy doesn’t just find cancer, it can also prevent cancer. A colonoscopy will find—and remove— polyps. Polyps are precancerous, abnormal growths in the lining of the intestine and rectum. If they go unnoticed, polyps develop into deadly cancer. A colonoscopy could life-saving in two ways: it can remove polyps and prevent cancer altogether, or it can detect cancer when it is still in a treatable stage.
Are There Symptoms to Watch For?
There are many symptoms to watch for that can indicate colorectal cancer. However, the symptoms of colorectal cancer can be confusing because they represent symptoms of various GI problems. If you notice any of the symptoms listed below, you should call your GI doctor immediately.
- Changes in stool consistency
- Blood in your stool
- Feeling bloated
- Feeling unable to empty your bowel
These symptoms warrant an appointment with your doctor, especially when paired with abdominal pain or cramping, nausea, or fatigue. Even though it could be a sign of a less serious gastrointestinal issue, it’s still worth addressing. In the event it is colorectal cancer, the sooner you’re diagnosed, the better your opportunity for successful treatment.
Who is at Risk for Diagnosis?
Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally. For both genders, the risk of development increases with age. African Americans have a higher risk of diagnosis than any other race. Genetics also plays a big role in your risk. If you had a blood relative who suffered from colorectal cancer, you are at risk. The age they were diagnosed will also indicate how early you will need screening. While the recommended age for a colonoscopy is 45, your first screening should be earlier. Your risk also increases if you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Stop smoking and limit your consumption of alcohol to reduce your risk of cancer. Another effective form of preventing colorectal cancer includes eating a diet that is low in fat and high in fiber. You also reduce your risk when you exercise three to four days for at least twenty minutes. It’s important to remember, the most effective form of prevention is a colonoscopy.
If you are between 45 and 50 years old, schedule your colonoscopy at Asheville Gastroenterology Associates, a division of Digestive Health Partners, PA.