The importance of colorectal cancer screenings
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. You can help by sharing this article, getting involved and help raise awareness about the benefits of colorectal screenings.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for both men and women. Colorectal screenings are recommended for adults between the ages of 50 and 75. More than 90% of colorectal cancer occurs in people age 50 and older, and that risk increases as you get older.
“Colorectal cancer doesn’t always show symptoms. You could have precancerous polyps or colorectal cancer and not even know it,” said Amit K. Agarwal, MD, FACS, a colon and rectal surgeon with UT Physicians.
Other risk factors may also increase the possibility of colorectal cancer. “If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s, your risk is much higher,” said Agarwal. “Lifestyle factors, such as overconsumption of processed meats, low physical activity, and tobacco or excessive alcohol use, also affects your risk.” Eating a balanced diet, quitting smoking, and lowering alcohol consumption can improve your overall health and lifestyle.
Signs and symptoms
Here are some warning signs:
- Change in bowel movements – constipation, diarrhea. or narrowing of stool sizes
- Abdominal pain or discomfort – cramps, bloating, gas, or feeling full
- Rectal bleeding – stools may appear bloody or dark red
- Weakness or fatigue – unexplained weight loss, vomiting, or nausea
Since these symptoms may overlap with other gastrointestinal problems, screening is important.
There isn’t a best option when it comes to screening for polyps or colorectal cancer, but you have several choices. “Screening options like stool tests, colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or CT colonography have their advantages and disadvantages. You should consult with your doctor to see which is right for you,” said Agarwal.
Treatments for colorectal cancer
Treatments range from surgery to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Your treatment options will vary based on what stage the cancer is in and where it is located. “Surgery is often the choice for earlier diagnoses while chemotherapy and radiation therapy are usually the option for late stages,” said Agarwal. “The more complex the cancer, the more advanced the cancer treatment needs to be.” It’s important to review all of your treatment options, including the possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs.
The death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades. This is likely to due to early detection from screenings, in addition to improvements in colorectal cancer treatments.
To learn more about our colon and rectal team, visit our dedicated colon and rectal specialty page.
To schedule an appointment, please call 888-488-3627.