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What a Colorectal Surgeon Wants You to Know

March 08, 2022

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of men and women in the U.S. This year alone, 11,780 Texans are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and the disease is expected to take the lives of 4,280 Texans.

In recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with Roberto Rodriguez-Ruesga, M.D., FACS, FASCRS, a colorectal surgeon at Texas Oncology Surgical Specialists–Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, McKinney South, and Plano East, on how people can manage their risk of developing colorectal cancer and what they should know if they are diagnosed.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

Anyone with a colon is at risk. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer for the general population is around six percent, but this doubles for patients with a family history of colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

What can people do to reduce their risk?

The best way that people can reduce their risk of colorectal cancer is through on-time colonoscopy screenings. You should also not ignore symptoms which can include rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, or abdominal pain.

To lower risk for colorectal cancer, I recommend people take the following actions: eat healthy and exercise, avoid alcohol and tobacco, maintain a healthy weight, and follow screening recommendations set by the American Cancer Society by starting screenings at age 45."

Since colorectal cancer often shows no symptoms, what would you recommend people do to stay vigilant and on guard against colorectal cancer?

To lower risk for colorectal cancer, I would recommend people take the following actions: eat healthy and exercise, avoid alcohol and tobacco, maintain a healthy weight, and follow screening recommendations set by the American Cancer Society by starting screenings at age 45.

Who should get screened and what are the ways people can get screened?

Anyone age 45 years and older should be screened. Any patient with a family history of colon cancer should be screened 10 years earlier than the age of their youngest relative with colorectal cancer.

The gold standard for colorectal cancer screening is a colonoscopy. While other methods can be used as well, none of them are therapeutic. With a colonoscopy screening, polyps – which can be precursors of cancer – can be removed at the same time.

What do you wish your patients knew before they were diagnosed with colorectal cancer?

Depending on the stage, colorectal cancer is a curable disease. Great advances have been made on surgical and medical treatments with optimistic results even at advanced stages.

What do surgery and treatment plans often look like for those diagnosed with colorectal cancer?

It requires a team to care for colon cancer patients and we are equipped to offer help. Treatment plans differ for everyone, and sometimes treatments are necessary before surgery. Surgical treatments vary depending on location and minimally invasive approaches like robotic surgery. Patients can recover faster and initiate additional treatments, if indicated.

What advancements have you witnessed throughout your career that have affected treatment for colorectal cancer?

The development of robotic surgery has revolutionized surgical care. In addition, the ability to detect “molecular” evidence of residual disease, even before any imaging studies reveal recurrence, is starting to play an important role in the care and management of these patients.


For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.