National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society recently released a report that higher rates in the last 25 years of colon and rectal cancer are being diagnosed in young patients, almost doubling.  Causes of colorectal cancer at earlier ages may be linked to lifestyle factors including excessive alcohol, smoking, lack of physical activity, and an unhealthy diet. The most common symptom of colorectal cancer is no symptoms. However, one may have abdominal pain, blood in the stool, narrow stools, and weight loss with no known reason. 

Even though it is highly preventable with screening and highly treatable when caught early, colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the US.  Awareness of colorectal cancer and how to prevent it is not enough; you need to act on prevention in the following ways:

  1. Screen beginning at age 45:
  1. Missing or delaying screening gives the cancer a chance to grow and become more deadly before symptoms appear
  2. Stool-based screening:

          i. Stool samples of 3 consecutive bowel movements to test for microscopic blood. Every year.

          ii. Fecal Immunochemical Test- most common option that tests for hemoglobin, an early indicator of new tissue growth. Every year.

           iii. DNA Stool test- Tests for certain molecules & DNA mutations that indicate potential growths. Every three years.

2. Endoscopic tests: Thin, flexible tube to detect cancerous and non-cancerous polyps and removal of pre-cancerous polyps

           i.      Colonoscopy every 10 years (or may be sooner)

           ii.      Sigmoidoscopy every 5 years (or may be sooner)

           iii.      CT Colonography, only for those who cannot have colonoscopies