Dr. Erik Johnson is a colorectal surgeon with Aurora BayCare. He joined us on Wisconsin Tonight to talk about National Colorectal Awareness Month.
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon and rectum. It is located at the lower end of the digestive tract (large intestine). Most colorectal cancers start with a growth, called a polyp, on the inner lining in the colon or rectum. Some polyps can change into cancer over several years, but not all polyps will become cancerous.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States and is the fourth most common cancer. Each year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 die from it. This month helps raise awareness about colorectal cancer and stresses the importance of prevention. And just think: if everyone ages 50 and older were screened regularly, an estimated six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer do not always show symptoms at first. Initial symptoms include:
* Blood in or on the stool
* Diarrhea or constipation that lasts longer than a few days
* Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away
* Unexplained weight loss
The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. Over 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years of age and older. Other risk factors include a family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, lack of regular physical activity, being overweight or obese, and alcohol and tobacco use.
Are there screening test options for colorectal cancer?
* High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT): This checks for blood in stool that cannot be seen visually.
* Stool DNA test (FIT-DNA): This checks for blood in stool as well as DNA biomarkers in three genes that can be found in colorectal cancer.
* Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy: These check the inside of the rectum and colon and can remove abnormalities.
There are different ways to treat colorectal cancer, depending on the type and the stage:
* Surgery (typically the main or first treatment)
* Radiation therapy (typically done with chemotherapy)
* Chemotherapy (if your cancer has a higher risk of coming back)
* Targeted therapy (if the chemotherapy isn’t working and have less severe side effects)
There is no guaranteed way to prevent colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there are things you can do to help lower your risk. They include getting screenings done starting at age 50, monitoring your weight, avoiding excess alcohol, increasing how often you exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables, and avoiding tobacco products.
For information, call Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgery at 877-677-5384.