Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States. But, in most cases, it can be prevented. The time is now to get a colorectal cancer screening. It could save your life.
HealthCore Clinic believes every patient deserves access to cancer screening and high-quality care, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, or socioeconomic status.
Contact us today to schedule a colorectal cancer screening test if you are over the age of 50 or have a history of gastrointestinal problems or disease symptoms.
What is a colorectal cancer screening?
A screening test is used to look for a disease when a person doesn’t have gastrointestinal symptoms. (When a person has symptoms, diagnostic tests are used to find out the cause of the symptoms.)
Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early when treatment works best.
There are two main types of colorectal cancer screening tests:
The multitarget stool DNA testing for colorectal-cancer screening checks the stool (feces) for signs of cancer. These tests are less invasive and easier to have done, but they need to be done more often.
These tests look at the structure of the colon and rectum for any abnormal areas. This is done either with a scope (a tube-like instrument with a light and tiny video camera on the end) put into the rectum, or with special imaging (x-ray) tests.
When should screening for colorectal cancer begin?
Most people should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. However, you may need to be tested earlier than 50, or more often than other people, if…
- You, or a close relative, have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- You have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
If you think you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, contact us or speak with your provider about when to begin screening, which test is right for you, and how often to get tested.
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
Being aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer and understanding risks can help prevent this cancer from happening to you, or help you catch it as early as possible. Some of the early stages of colorectal cancer may not show any signs — this is why colorectal cancer screening is so important. If you have any signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, do not ignore them, tell your doctor right away. Colon cancer symptoms and rectal cancer symptoms are very similar and can overlap. If you experience any of the following colorectal cancer symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
- Rectal Bleeding
- Blood In Stool
- Ongoing Changes In Bowel Habits
- Stools That Are Narrower Than Usual
- Frequent Gas Pains
- Frequent Bloating
- Frequent Feeling of Being Full
- Frequent Abdominal Pain & Cramps
- Weight Loss (Without Reason)
It’s not uncommon for individuals diagnosed in the early stages (stage I or II) to not experience any colorectal cancer symptoms. Symptoms of early-stage colorectal cancer are not always obvious or visible. Oftentimes it’s only when colorectal cancer has grown into late-stage cancer or spread that symptoms appear. That is why it is so important to schedule your colorectal cancer screening test now.
Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
A risk factor is anything that raises your chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed. It is important to note that having a risk factor, or even many risk factors, does not mean that you will get colorectal cancer. It is also important to note that some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors. Researchers have found several risk factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- Being overweight or obese
- Not being physically active
- A diet that’s high in red/processed meats
- Alcohol Use
- Over the age of 50
- A personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- A family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Having an inherited syndrome
- Having Type 2 diabetes
- Your racial and ethnic background
- African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the US.
- Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks of any ethnic group in the world.
Will my insurance cover a colorectal cancer screening?
Most insurance plans and Medicare help pay for colorectal cancer screening for people who are 50 years old or older. Colorectal cancer screening costs may be covered by your health insurance policy without a deductible or co-pay.
HealthCore Clinic accepts KanCare / Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and private insurance. We offer sliding scale fees and prescription assistance for those not covered by insurance.
Help Spread The Word
A #StrongArmSelfie is an easy and fun way to show your support in the fight against colorectal cancer. All you need is a smartphone and a social media account (bicep muscles optional). Take a “selfie” while flexing your best “strong arm” pose. Then, post it online to show your support and encourage colorectal cancer screening. Each post, retweet or share of a #StrongArmSelfie sends $1 to Fight CRC (Up to $25,000 in 2021 thanks to generous sponsors).
Black Americans are at higher risk for colorectal cancer
- Black Americans are about 20% more likely to get CRC and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups.
- 1 in 41 Black males will die from colorectal cancer, compared to 1 in 48 White males. The risk is similar for women. 1 in 44 Black females will die from colorectal cancer, compared to 1 in 53 White females.
- Black Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers.
- Research shows that Black Americans are being diagnosed at a younger average age than other people.
- Therefore, experts suggest that Black Americans should begin their screening at age 45.
Colorectal Cancer Treatment
If you have colorectal cancer, the treatments most likely to help you will depend on your particular situation, including the location of your cancer, its stage, and other health concerns. Treatment for colon cancer usually involves surgery to remove the cancer. Other treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, might also be recommended.
Colorectal Cancer Diet & Nutrition
Nutrition can play a very important part in your treatment when you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Eating a well-balanced diet before, during, and after cancer treatment can help you feel better, maintain your strength, and shorten your recovery time. Here are some colorectal cancer nutrition tips:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery for colorectal cancer can often contribute to unintentional weight loss. It’s important to avoid excess weight loss during treatment as poor nutrition status can cause decrease the body’s ability to fight infection.
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Eating frequent small meals will ensure your body is getting enough calories, protein, and nutrients to tolerate treatment. Smaller meals may also help to reduce treatment-related side effects such as nausea. Try eating 5-6 small meals or “mini” meals about every three hours.
- Choose protein-rich foods. Protein helps the body to repair cells and tissues. It also helps your immune system recover from illness. Include a source of lean protein at all meals and snacks. Good sources of lean protein include:
- Lean meats such as chicken, fish, or turkey
- Low fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese or dairy substitutes
- Nuts and nut butters
- Soy foods
- Include whole grain foods. Whole grain foods provide a good source of carbohydrate and fiber, which help keep your energy levels up. You may be asked by your doctor to avoid whole-grains and high-fiber foods while an ostomy is in place because these foods can increase output. Good sources of whole grain foods include:
- Whole wheat breads
- Brown rice
- Whole grain pastas
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables offer the body antioxidants, which can help fight against cancer. Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get the greatest benefit. Aim to eat a minimum of 5 servings of whole fruits and vegetables daily.
- Choose sources of healthy fat. Avoid fried, greasy, and fatty foods, Choose baked, broiled, or grilled foods instead. Healthy fats include:
- Olive oil
- Limit sweets and added sugars. Foods high in added sugars like desserts and sweets provide little nutritional benefit and often take the place of other foods that are better for you.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough fluids during cancer treatment is important for preventing dehydration. Aim to drink 64 ounces of fluid daily. Avoid drinking large amounts of caffeinated beverages. Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration.
- Be observant of changes in bowel habits. Colorectal cancer and treatments can often lead to changes in bowel habits including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and gas. It is important for you to communicate with your healthcare team any changes in your bowel habits. Changes in your diet or medications may be necessary to manage these side effects.
- Practice good food safety. Wash your hands often while preparing food. Use different knives and cutting boards for raw meat and raw vegetables. Be sure to cook all foods to their proper temperature and refrigerate leftovers right away.
- Talk to your healthcare team before taking any vitamins or supplements. Some medications and cancer treatments may interact with vitamins and supplements. Choose food first as the main source for nutrients.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Alcohol may contribute to dehydration, can lower the abilities of your immune system, and provides no beneficial nutrients.
- Most importantly, know that your cancer journey is unique to you and your treatment. You may experience side effects that affect your ability to follow these suggestions. If you are struggling with any side effects, such as loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or any other nutrition concerns, your needs may be different. A registered dietitian can suggest nutrition guidelines that will be appropriate for your cancer journey.
Colorectal Cancer Facts
- 1 IN 23 MEN AND 1 IN 25 WOMEN WILL BE DIAGNOSED.
- In 2021, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 45,230 cases of rectal cancer.
- There are over one million colorectal cancer survivors in the U.S.
- CRC IS THE SECOND-LEADING CAUSE OF CANCER DEATHS AMONG MEN AND WOMEN COMBINED IN THE U.S.
- 52,980 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected in 2021.
- At its most treatable (stage I), it’s 90% curable. But only 38% of CRCs are diagnosed at stage I.
- For those diagnosed before age 50, around 10% have late-stage disease (stages III and IV).
- CRC IS PREVENTABLE WITH SCREENING AND AFFORDABLE TAKE-HOME OPTIONS EXIST.
- 68% percent of deaths could be prevented with screening.
- The American Cancer Society Guidelines recommend screening starting at 45 years old.
- Always consult your doctor about which screening method is right for you.
- FAMILY HISTORY OF CRC = HIGHER RISK = GET SCREENED EARLIER!
- Between 25-30% of CRC patients have a family history of the disease.
- BY KNOWING THE RISK FACTORS AND SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS, YOU CAN CATCH IT AT ITS EARLIEST STAGE.
- If you are 45 or older you should talk to your doctor about screening. But:
- Anyone, at any age, can get colorectal cancer.
- Those experiencing signs and symptoms need a diagnostic exam.
- If you are 45 or older you should talk to your doctor about screening. But:
- COLORECTAL CANCER vs COLON CANCER
- Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
- COLORECTAL CANCER vs. PROSTATE CANCER
- Unlike colorectal cancer, in which multiple primary cancers may be diagnosed, prostate cancer is specific to the prostate gland. The prevalence of prostate cancer is higher than any other malignant cancers in men living in the United States.
- COLORECTAL CANCER SURGEONS
- A Colorectal Surgeon is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of anorectal and colorectal conditions (conditions of the colon, rectum and anus).
Many colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular colorectal cancer screening. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening is important because when found early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. Don’t wait, schedule your colorectal cancer screening today.