Tami Griffith – Colorectal cancer can be treated if caught early
Granby, CO Colorado
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a common and often deadly disease here in the United States. It is estimated that there are approximately 147,000 new diagnosed cases of this type of cancer annually in the U.S.
The colon and rectum are a part of the large intestines. The large intestines make up a portion of your digestive system. Together, the colon and rectum are active in eliminating residue of food that your body does not need.
As food residue remains in your “gut,” bacteria continue to be produced. Some experts think this could be a link in the development of abnormal cell growth in your system, thus possibly leading to cancer in that area.
What are the signs and symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
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In the early stages of this disease, individuals are usually symptom-free. This is why regular screening is so important. However, once the disease has started to progress there are several symptoms that may be noticed.
Approximately 44 percent of individuals with colorectal cancer notice abdominal pain and discomfort. Some people report a sense of fullness, bloating, or cramps. This may be due in part to a partial bowel obstruction from a lesion or a perforation in the intestines.
A rectal cancer lesion may cause tenesmus or spasm of the pelvic floor muscles. A tumor may also cause pressure on the Sciatic or obturator nerve, leading to radiation of pain down the lower extremities.
According to recent studies, 43 percent of patients diagnosed with this type of cancer experience changes in bowel habits. Among the reported changes: constipation, diarrhea, a sensation of incomplete evacuation, or stools that are more narrow than normal.
This change is noted more in individuals with cancer in the distal or left colon. Tumors in this area are often encircling lesions that cause a restriction in the bowel, thus leading to changes in bowel patterns. On radiology tests, these lesions cause an apple-core or napkin ring appearance to the bowel area.
Hematochezia or blood in the stool is seen in 40 percent of the initial reported signs and symptoms. Many times, blood in the stool is seen more with rectal cancer. However, bleeding is also seen with tumors located in the cecal or ascending colon areas.
Anemia is seen in 11 percent of the cases. This is often seen with individuals with a delayed diagnosis.
Other signs and symptoms include: weight loss, nausea/vomiting, and fatigue.
What about metastasis of this type of cancer?
Metastatic disease is seen in 20 percent of patients who first present with colorectal cancer.
Overall, the most common sites of metastasis include the liver, regional lymph nodes, and the lungs. With colon cancer, due to the drainage of the intestinal tract by the portal system, the first organs and systems affected are the liver, lungs, bones, and brain.
Tumors that begin the rectal region often metastasize to the lungs first.
What are the stages of CRC?
Stage 1: Cancer is located only in the tumor itself
Stage 2: Cancer has spread into the mucosal layer of the colon
Stage 3: Cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes in the area
Stage 4: Cancer is found in other organs, liver, lungs, etc.
The treatment for early stage CRC is surgical resection. Removal of the tumor along with a portion of the affected area. Cancer in later stages is best treated with surgical resection along with chemotherapy and radiation.
Who is at risk of Colon Cancer?
• Anyone over the age of 50 and sedentary lifestyle. It has been found that individuals who exercise on a regular basis have a 24 percent less likelihood of developing CRC.
• Intake of red meat, processed meats, smokers or alcohol use, diabetes. Some research shows a 30 percent increase in the risk of colorectal cancer in those with diabetes. This may be due to hyperinsulinemia. Insulin helps with the growth of colon mucosal cells and thus may stimulate colonic tumor cells.
• Obeseity – especially if you carry extra weight around your waist. Studies showed that individuals who are overweight have a 1.5-fold increase in developing colorectal cancer as compared to those of normal weight.
• Family HX. Of polyps or colorectal cancer. Polyps are benign growths that begin in the colon area. This is usually due to abnormal cell growth. The two most common polyps noted in the colon are adenomas and hyperplastic polyps. Studies show that adenomas are usually the growths that can develop into cancer.
• Individuals with a personal or family history of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
How can I potentially avoid this type of cancer?
It is recommended that you receive an annual exam along with a yearly Fecal Occult Blood Test. Colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years, once you reach the age of 50.
If you are African American, it is recommended that you receive a colonoscopy at age 45 or younger. If you have a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer, or a personal history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, talk to your health care provider about receiving the test sooner. Typically, the test is done at age 40.
The colonoscopy allows the physician to see any polyps and remove those for biopsy. After the results are determined, then further treatment will be decided.
Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Eat healthy fresh fruits and vegetables along with whole grain and high fiber products. Do not smoke or drink alcohol.
The five-year survival rate for Stage 1 individuals is 93 percent and the five-year survival rate for individuals in Stage 4 is 8 percent.
This is a curable disease if caught in time.
Remember: healthy living and annual check-ups with your provider.
If you need more information, contact Tami Griffith at Granby Medical Center, 887-7400, or the American Cancer Society.
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