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Four Things to Know About Colorectal Cancer Prevention

March 25, 2020

Colorectal cancer can often cause discomfort and apprehension among patients and loved ones, as many misconceptions surround screening methods, symptoms, and treatments. In March, during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, physicians who treat colorectal cancer want you to know that prevention and early detection are key to fighting the disease.

The truth is that colorectal cancer is highly treatable, and routine screening methods are proven to be effective in reducing incidence.”

The truth is that colorectal cancer is highly treatable, and routine screening methods are proven to be effective in reducing incidence. In fact, if caught early, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates colorectal cancer has a 90 percent survival rate. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one-third of Americans in the recommended age range have never been screened.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with increasing incidence in young adults. These are the four things physicians want you to know about awareness and prevention.

Vigilance is essential

Many patients think that because they don’t have symptoms, they don’t have cancer. However, colorectal cancer does not usually cause symptoms until it reaches advanced stages. Patients should discuss concerns and address symptoms, such as rectal bleeding or changes in bowel movements, with a physician.

Screening options vary – there’s an option that’s right for you

Men and women age 45 and older without family or personal history of cancer should discuss the most appropriate screening test with their physician. While colonoscopies are necessary to confirm and often remove cancers, there are other options. Screening tests include fecal tests, such as guaiac-based fecal occult blood tests (gFOBT), fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), and multi-targeted stool DNA (MT-sDNA) tests, or endoscopic procedures, such as flexible sigmoidoscopies, virtual colonoscopies, or even double-contrast barium enemas. Patients may also choose to utilize FDA-approved at-home colon cancer screening kits before consulting with a physician.

Screen early if you’re at risk

Risk factors such as family history, diet, personal health, and certain inherited syndromes may mean you need to take extra steps to prevent colorectal cancer or begin screenings at an earlier age. People with a family history of colorectal polyps, a family history of colorectal cancer, Lynch Syndrome (HNPCC), or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), should discuss screening frequency with their physician.

Prevention starts now

You can take steps to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Eating a low-fat diet and nutrient-rich foods has been known to reduce risk. Genetic testing may also help some patients learn more about their risk.

While these four important elements of colorectal cancer prevention will help you better prioritize your colorectal health in the near term, improved awareness and education will continue to help break down barriers to detection. The future is ripe with potential to improve outcomes, as oncologists and researchers eye medical innovations that look to improve early detection rates, reduce stigma, and further advance treatments.


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