What You Should Know About Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal or colon and rectal cancer, is a cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. It affects men and women of all ethnic groups, and is most often found in people age 50 years or older. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can help detect precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—that can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment works best.
Signs and symptoms include:
Many people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location. Therefore, getting screened is very important. Talk to your doctor about the various screening options and together decide on which are appropriate for you.
Lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of colon cancer
When to see a doctor:
If you notice any symptoms listed above or new or persistent symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your doctor. Do not be embarrassed, it’s important to address any concerns, and do not wait. Early detection can be life-saving. Guidelines generally recommend that colon cancer screenings begin around 50. Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings if you have other risk factors, such as a family history.
Treatment for colon and rectal cancer depends on the size, location, and how far the cancer has spread. Surgery is the most common treatment and is often curative. Most of the surgeries performed today are minimally invasive such as robotic or laparoscopic. They result in faster recovery with smaller incisions, less pain, and less time in the hospital and faster return to work and life. A team of doctors will typically put together a customized treatment plan that may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, rehabilitation, follow-up care after treatment, all while taking into account cure, quality-of-life, and treatment goals.