Medical Monday: Colon Cancer awareness

Posted at 7:08 PM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-15 08:54:24-04

In tonight's Medical Monday, Dr. Erik Johnson of Aurora BayCare stopped by to help bring up a topic most people don't want to discuss: getting a colonoscopy.

It is an effective preventative measure that could help detect a common form of cancer, colon cancer.

How can Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month make a difference in our community?

The annual month-long awareness campaign is an opportunity to educate people within our region about colorectal cancer and encourage our family, friends and others to start taking preventative measures against this disease. We need to shed the embarrassment and start discussing this issue now.


How big a deal is the threat of colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the fourth-most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death. It is most often found in people 50 years of age and older. The good news is that if everyone 50 and older underwent regularly-scheduled screenings, six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. We’re using the national spotlight on this issue to encourage people to get screened, especially in our region. In Wisconsin, just over 70 percent of eligible patients are screened for colorectal cancer, a percentage that last year ranked 5th nationally for the number of people that have been screened. It’s a good start, but considering 1 in 20 Americans (about 5 percent of the U.S. population) will be diagnosed with colon cancer during their lifetime, we need to do a better job of increasing awareness of the importance of preventive screenings and early detection. 


Exactly how is colon cancer detected?

Colon cancer may be detected by a variety of screening tests, often through a colonoscopy. These tests can be divided into:

* Tests that can find both colorectal polyps and cancer

o These tests look at the structure of the colon itself to find any abnormal areas. This is done either with a scope put into the rectum or with special imaging tests. 

* Tests that mainly find cancer

o These tests check the stool for signs of cancer. These tests are less invasive and easier to have done, but they are less likely to detect polyps.

o These tests as well as others also can be used when people have symptoms of colorectal cancer and other digestive diseases.


And if cancer is detected following a screening, what’s the next step?

If cancer is detected during your colon screening, you will likely be referred to a colorectal surgeon. In most cases, colorectal cancer requires surgery. However, between 80 percent and 90 percent of patients return to normal health when the cancer is treated in its early stages.


What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

* Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement)

* Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away

* Losing weight and you don’t know why


What are the risk factors?

You have a high risk of colon cancer if you:

* Are older than 60

* Are African-American of eastern European descent

* Eat a lot of red or processed meats

* Have colorectal polyps

* Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)

* Have colon cancer in your family history


Additional colon cancer facts

* Colon cancer (also called colorectal cancer) is one of the most common forms of cancer

* One in 20 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer during their lifetime

* It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States

* It is highly treatable; the five-year survival rate is 90 percent if the disease is found in its earliest stages

* Regular screening can prevent a large number of colorectal cancers from happening


So what’s the key takeaway today?

Early detection is key is treating colorectal cancer. What you do or don’t do today to help manage your colon health can have a profound impact on your overall health and wellness.


More information

For information, call Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgery at 877-677-5384.