By Alexis Grucela, MD, FACS, FASCRS
Colorectal Surgery, Cancer Care Team, CareMount Medical
March 5, 2021
This year, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month takes on more importance than ever. Last March, COVID-19 took hold and grabbed center stage overshadowing most other health priorities, including all types of screenings. Many clinics were closed or limited their services and appointments. Many procedures including important cancer screenings were cancelled or delayed. This has resulted in serious consequences for people with certain diseases, like colorectal cancer, that can be best treated and cured if detected early.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most prevalent and deadly cancers in the United States. In fact, it is the third most diagnosed cancer and is the third-leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While those statistics are grim, colon cancer is curable. Screening for colon cancer is an essential preventive measure recommended for persons 45 years of age and older. Because the most common type of screening, colonoscopy, is done in hospital or outpatient settings, patients may think that these are the last places they should go during the pandemic, fearing exposure to coronavirus. Rather than putting off colon cancer screening, patients with COVID-19 safety concerns should speak with their healthcare provider for reassurance that the hospital or office where the procedure is performed is following protocols to sanitize, socially distance, test patients and staff, vaccinate staff, and isolate patients to areas to ensure other patients are safe.
When colorectal cancer is found at Stage 1, before it has spread, the five-year relative survival rate is over 90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Robotic colon resection is a minimally invasive approach to curing colon cancer with faster recovery times and minimal scarring.
When the cancer progresses and spreads outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower.
When it comes to your colon health, age plays an important factor. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 90 percent of people with colon cancer are diagnosed after age 50, and the average age at diagnosis is 72. Screening is key, and colonoscopy is the only test which is both diagnostic and therapeutic to prevent colon cancer.
Lifestyle approaches, especially related to diet and exercise, can also lower your risk of colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Being overweight and physically inactive, consuming high amounts of alcohol, red meat and processed meat have been shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
In short, with colorectal cancer, prevention is key! So being prepared and aware of your options is vital to staying healthy. Through screenings, understanding risk factors and engaging in a healthy lifestyle and healthier choices, lives can be saved.
Why not start this month?