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Colorectal Cancer Risk

Colorectal cancer - cancer of the colon and rectum - is the second leading cancer killer in the United States affecting both men and women. Your risk increases as you age. Some people are at even higher risk depending on their personal or family history. The good news is that colorectal cancer is preventable and if detected early, it is curable.

Questions about Colorectal Cancer

Answer the following questions to see if you are at risk for developing colorectal cancer.

  1. Are you aged 45 years or older?
  2. Do you or a family member have a history of colon polyps?
  3. Do you or a family member have a history of colon cancer?
  4. Do you have a chronic inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease?
  5. Do you or a family member have a history of ovarian, endometrial or stomach cancer?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be at risk of developing this disease. Talk to our colorectal surgeon to get screened for colorectal cancer (screening means getting tested for a disease even if you don't have symptoms).

Screening can prevent colorectal cancer.

Why is it so IMPORTANT?

Colorectal cancer [cancer of the colon and rectum] is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women combined. The general population faces a lifetime risk for developing the disease of about 5%, while someone whose family has a history of colorectal cancer has a 10 to 15 percent chance of developing the disease. The risk rises to over 50% in people with ulcerative colitis and those whose family members had colorectal cancers.

Approximately more than 1,00,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and 45-50% out of them die from this disease every year. Surpassing both breast cancer and prostate cancer in mortality, colorectal cancer is second only to lung cancer in numbers of deaths in developed countries. Colorectal cancer strikes men and women with almost equal frequency.

What are the SYMPTOMS of Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is often a silent disease, developing with no symptoms at all.

When symptoms do occur they may include the following:
  • Blood in or on the stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness and/or cramps)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Constant tiredness or new fatigue during activity that was previously tolerated

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, consult our doctor immediately. While not everyone who has these symptoms will have colon cancer, persistence of these is not normal and requires additional investigation to determine the underlying cause.

Can it be PREVENTED?

YES ! Polyp-related colorectal cancer can be prevented. The disease develops from benign polyps (mushroom-like growths on the lining of the colon and rectum). Removing these polyps before they become cancerous may prevent cancer from developing.

A low-fat diet, high in vegetable and fruit intake & regular exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week. Moderate exercise such as walking, gardening, or climbing steps may help reduce your rise of developing colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer can be cured in up to 90 percent of people when it is discovered in its early stages. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 lives a year could be saved through widespread adoption of colorectal cancer screening and early treatment in men and women.

WHO IS AT RISK?

The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. All men and women aged 45 years and older are at risk for developing colorectal cancer and should be screened. Some people are at a higher risk and should be screened at an age younger than 45, including those with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease; colorectal cancer or polyps or ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer.

HOW DO I GET CHECKED FOR COLORECTAL CANCER?

Current screening methods include :
  • Faecal occult blood testing (a simple chemical test that can detect hidden blood in the stool),
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (a visual examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon),
  • Double contrast barium enema (barium x-ray),
  • Colonoscopy (a visual examination of the entire colon) and
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE).

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