Cancer is a scary word
Cancer is a scary word. For those with GI issues, it can be even more unnerving, considering many of us have underlying risk factors that put us at greater risk. Here at DHAT, we want to walk you through the basics, from screening to treatment, in an effort to keep you informed up to date on GI issues you need to know to stay healthy.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the US among cancers that affect both men and women. Colon cancer begins when polyps, which are clumps of cells that form in the colon or rectum become cancerous. Generally, polyps are extremely small and produce no symptoms which is why regular screening is so important. Polyps generally take 10-15 years to develop into cancer. When found early on colorectal cancer is extremely treatable and has a very high survival rate.
For many patients’ symptoms of colorectal cancer can vary, most do not experience symptoms in the earliest stages of the disease. The lack of early symptoms is why regular screening is vital, especially for those with digestive issues. Some of the most common symptoms seen are:
- Change in your bowel movements such as diarrhea or constipation
- Change in stool consistency
- Bleeding of the rectum, or blood in the stool
- Constant abdominal discomfort or pain such as cramps or gas
If you experience any of these symptoms it is essential that you schedule a consultation with your physician to determine the best course of action
Who's at Risk?
Most individuals who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer have either a family history, inherited genetic syndromes, or an inflammatory disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Because of this, those with digestive issues must get screened early and regularly to ensure early detection and treatment. Other common risk factors include:
- Age: Most diagnosed patients are around 50 years old.
- Diet: Eating a low-fiber, high-fat diet can raise your risk. Following a healthy diet that includes plenty of veggies, fruits, and whole grains can help reduce your risk factor.
- Obesity: Being obese or overweight can increase your risk, especially in men. Getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it can help low your risk factor.
- Smoking: We all know smoking is not good for your overall health, and while it is mostly linked to lung cancer, it can also increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Alcohol: Consuming alcohol in general is an associated health risk, so it is best to avoid alcohol. However, if you choose to consume alcohol, know that the recommended maximum, daily alcohol consumption for men is 2 alcoholic beverages and for women 1 alcoholic beverage.
Early detection and screenings are essential to reduce the dangers of colon cancer. Keeping your doctor up to date on any changes in your digestive health is one of the most important things you can do.
The most common screening is the colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows your physician to look at the entirety of your colon and is the only screening that can biopsy and remove polyps. Other forms of screenings include CT’s, and at home stool DNA test. If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer you may need to undergo procedures such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy.
For those with digestive issues, it is essential to stay in touch with their gastroenterologist to screen and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. If you are looking for a trusted gastroenterologist in Dallas/Fort Worth area call us at 1-800-425-3759 to find a DHAT board certified gastroenterologist near you or check us out at https://www.dhat.com/locations.