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Health Minute: Colorectal Cancer

By: Claude

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know colorectal cancer is the fourth most diagnosed cancer in the United States? Avni Jain, MD, family medicine physician with Adventist Medical Group, explains what colorectal cancer is, the types of screenings available and the signs and symptoms someone may experience.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum and is often referred to as colon cancer. Cancer occurs when cells start growing out of control. Often times the cancer can start as a little clump of cells called polyps and overtime turn cancerous. This is why routine screening is so important.

Are there preventative screenings available?

It is recommended that beginning at age 45, men and women have a routine colonoscopy. This out-patient procedure checks for cancerous polyps that may be forming and provides your physicians a baseline for future colonoscopies. These screenings are completed once every ten years unless directed otherwise by your doctor. In between colonoscopy screenings, there are additional stool-based tests that can be completed at home each year.

What are the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer?

There are various symptoms someone with colon cancer may experience, but it is important to note that many times symptoms don’t appear until the late stages of colon cancer which is why routine screening is needed. Symptoms someone may experience include:

· A change in bowel habits

· Blood in your stool

· Diarrhea or constipation

· Feelings of your bowel not emptying completely

· Abdominal pain or cramps that do not dissipate

· Unexplained weight loss

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

Everyone is at risk for colorectal cancer as you age. Some people may have additional risk factors that increase their risk. These can include:

· Having an inflammatory bowel disease like Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis

· Personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer

· Family history of polyps or colorectal cancer

· Lack of physical activity

· Diet low in fruits and vegetables

· Low-fiber and high-fat diet

· Regular consumption of processed meats

Talk with your primary care provider to discuss your risk level and when you should start screening for colorectal cancer.

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