Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

St. Elizabeth Healthcare: your partner in colorectal health

Physicians at St. Elizabeth are committed to raising awareness about colorectal cancer in the Tri-state area. Every March, St. Elizabeth participates in Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a national effort to educate the public on screening, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of the condition. Our motive is to spread awareness on the warning signs, symptoms and risk factors of this common cancer.

Signs to watch for: colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer may present with abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, anemia, blood in stools or rectal bleeding. In case of any such warning symptoms or signs, call your physician to schedule a colonoscopy exam.

“Guidelines by the American Cancer Society and U.S. Task Force on colorectal cancer recommend undergoing a screening test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 or even earlier if above symptoms develop,” says Dr. Jai Bikhchandani, a Colorectal Surgeon at St. Elizabeth Physicians. A colonoscopy is the most common screening test but other non-invasive tests like FIT or Cologuard may prove very helpful in the detection of polyps or cancer.

Polyps are small growths inside the colon. The cells in the polyp can eventually become cancerous if left to grow. Polyps are looked for during a colonoscopy, and if found, a biopsy is conducted to try and completely remove them to prevent the development of cancer.

Under the age of 50? Here’s what to watch for.
According to the Fight Colorectal Cancer organization, 90 percent of colon and rectal cancers are discovered in individuals over the age of 50. However, you can get colorectal cancer at a much earlier age. Incidence of colorectal cancer in younger populations is rising, therefore, any warning symptoms must be thoroughly investigated.

The American Cancer Society published an article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2017 that discussed the increasing rate of colorectal cancer in young and middle-age adults. While there isn’t a concrete reason for the rising incidence rate, researchers believe that obesity, low physical activity and diet are all factors.

Additional factors for the under-50 population include:

  • Family History – if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, make your physician aware of it and agree upon a screening timeline. A general rule of thumb to begin screening: take the age that your youngest family member was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and subtract 10 years.
  • Risk Factors – be aware of risk factors such as age, personal history of polyps, cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Genetic Testing – there is a link between certain inherited genetic conditions and an increased rate of colorectal cancer. Genetic testing can especially help in early detection of colorectal cancer risk factors, aiding physicians in prevention and treatment of conditions that could lead to cancer.

Staying fit and healthy can go a long way in prevention. It’s important to stay physically active, maintain a healthy body weight, eat fruits and vegetables, and avoid smoking and heavy alcohol use to help decrease your risk of cancer.

[source: Fight Colorectal Cancer]

To learn more about colorectal health or to schedule a colonoscopy at St. Elizabeth, please call (800) 737-7900 or visit stelizabethphysicians.com/enquirer.