March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (NCRCAM) and The Gastrointestinal Cancer Center of New Jersey at Saint Barnabas Medical Center reminds the community that screenings are crucial to prevention.
This year, more than 146,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 49,000 people will die from this disease. Colorectal cancer is not only the third most common cancer in both men and women, striking them in equal numbers; it is also the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Yet it is one of the most highly preventable forms of cancer.
“Colorectal cancer is a uniquely preventable disease,” says Ron Chamberlain, M.D., MPA, FACS, Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. It is estimated that more than 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 and older were routinely screened. “Finding and removing polyps can prevent colorectal cancers. We are missing life-saving opportunities because thousands of people who should be getting screened are not,” he continued.
Early diagnosis is critical to survival. Research shows that over 90 percent of patients with localized colorectal cancer survive for five years after diagnosis, yet only 37 percent of all diagnoses occur at this stage. The remaining 63 percent of cases are not discovered until the disease has spread throughout the body. Because 75 percent of new cases occur in persons with no known risk factors, regular colorectal cancer screenings are crucial to prevention.
Most cases of the disease begin as non-cancerous polyps, which are grape-like growths on the linings of the colon and rectum. These polyps can become cancerous and removing them can prevent colorectal cancers from ever occurring. Because there are often no symptoms related to polyps or early cancers, it is important to be tested on a regular basis.
Colorectal cancer screening tests can also detect the disease in its earliest, most curable stages. There are many options for screening. These include: a fecal occult blood test yearly; a sigmoidoscopy every five years; a colonoscopy or double contrast barium enema every 5 to 10 years. You may consider having all non-cancerous polyps removed to help prevent colorectal cancer before it starts.
Surgery is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is given before or after surgery to most patients with colorectal cancer that has spread. There are many treatment options available.
The Gastrointestinal Cancer Center of New Jersey and the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation offer the following suggestions for preventing colon and rectal cancer:
Get regular colorectal screening tests beginning at age 50. If you have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease, you may need to be tested earlier
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t drink alcohol excessively
- Men and women age 50 and older
- People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- People who use tobacco
- People who are obese and are sedentary
In the early stages of colorectal cancer, there may not be any symptoms. Later, these symptoms may appear:
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in or on the stool (bright red)
- Change in bowel habits
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness and/or cramps)
- Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Frequent gas pains
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- Constant tiredness
The Gastrointestinal Cancer Center of New Jersey offers medical and surgical expertise in the management of upper and lower gastrointestinal tract tumors (esophagus, stomach, duodenum, large and small intestine, pancreas, bile duct, liver, colon and rectum), soft tissue sarcomas, melanoma and endocrine tumors. For a referral to an attending colon and rectal surgeon at The Gastrointestinal Cancer Center of New Jersey please call
Date: March 3, 2011
Contact: Sally Malech, Director Marketing/Public Relations
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