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Colorectal Cancer: The Urgency of Early Screening

medical illustration showing colon cancer | GI NorthNational Colon Cancer Awareness Month is an occasion that was officially dedicated by President Clinton in February 2000. During this month, patients, caregivers, survivors and advocates throughout the United States join together to spread the awareness of colon and rectal cancer. They do so by wearing blue and holding events, raising funds, talking about screening and many other activities.

Overview of Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer occurs when tissues of the colon, which is the longest section of the large intestines, become cancerous. Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas, that is to say, they occur in cells that produce and release mucus and other fluids.

Rectal cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the rectum. The rectum is the section of the large intestines that is closest to the anus. Together, these diseases are referred to as colorectal cancers. Colorectal cancer often begins as small polyps (abnormal growths in the colon and rectum), and a cancer screening method such as colonoscopy can detect them.

Causes of Colorectal Cancer

The exact cause of colorectal cancer is not clear in most cases. However, the scientists know that it occurs when healthy cells become altered. Healthy cells continuously grow and divide to ensure that your body functions properly. When these cells are damaged and become cancerous, they continue to divide even when new cells are not needed. They can then invade and destroy healthy tissues around them. This destruction can travel to other parts of the body and wreak havoc.

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

The staff at GI North would like to make you aware of the following non-lifestyle factors that can make you prone to colorectal cancer.

  • Age. As you get older, your chances of developing colorectal cancer also increase
  • Previous colorectal cancer or types of polyps
  • History of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Ethnic background such as being Ashkenazi or Afro-American
  • Family syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
  • also known as Lynch syndrome

The lifestyle-related risk factors include:

  • Diet. Eating lots of red meat (liver, lamb, beef) and processed meats (hot dogs, bologna). Also consuming too much low-fiber and high-fat foods.
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercises
  • Obesity
  • Radiation therapy for cancer that is directed to the abdomen

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

At the early stage, colorectal cancer does not display any symptoms. But, there are several warning signs that you should observe. These include:

  • Changes in bowel movement such as persistent constipation, diarrhea, inability to completely empty the bowel, rectal bleeding and rectal cramping
  • Dark bloody patches in your stool or long thin stools
  • Bloating or abdominal discomfort
  • Pelvic pain that occurs especially at a later stage of the disease
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite

Diagnosis and Tests for Colorectal Cancer

Your physician can suggest several tests to find out if you have developed colorectal cancer. These include:

  • Stool tests for colorectal cancerous
  • Yearly fecal occult blood test to test for invisible blood droplets in your stool, which is an early sign of the disease
  • Colonoscopy. This is among the best tests for colorectal cancer. Here, a slender tube attached to a tiny video camera is inserted through the anus into the colon and rectal area to view it
  • Computed tomography (CT scan, also known as CT colonoscopy, or CAT scan)

Treatment of Colorectal Cancer

The treatment of this disease depends on the stage of the disease. Thus, there are three methods of treatment. These are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Radiation treatment

Prevention of Colorectal Cancer

Though specialists don’t know the exact cause of this disease, there are several ways that have proven to contribute to the prevention of illness. The primary method of prevention is to carry out a screening for colorectal cancer. This involves looking for pre-cancer cells in symptomless individuals. You can prevent this cancer by finding the polyps that can be removed before they have a chance to form cancer cells.

If you notice any signs of colorectal cancer or need more information about colorectal cancer, contact us at GI North. Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano will be glad to serve you and answer all your questions. They serve the residents of Cumming, GA as well as the surrounding areas of Canton, Alpharetta, Roswell and Suwanee. Dr. Quijano also speaks fluent Spanish and will be of great help to the Spanish-speaking community.

© 2015 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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