By Tracy Simons, Silver Cross Hospital
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States today and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. Oftentimes colorectal cancer can be detected and prevented if simple steps are followed.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
Researchers are learning more about what causes colon cancer and how it grows and progresses, however, no one knows the exact cause of colon cancer, but we do know some of the risk factors.
Research indicates that a high-fat diet, lack of fiber, inactivity, obesity, environmental exposure to carcinogens and genetic predisposition are factors. To help protect yourself, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, exercise regularly and get screened before you experience symptoms.
Your chances of developing colon cancer are higher if you have any of the following:
- History of large polyps (growths in the colon). A first-degree relative—mother, father, sister or brother—who had colon cancer before 65 years of age.
- A history of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or precancerous changes in the lining of the colon.
- Colon cancer risk is noted at age 50. Most cases occur in people over 65 years of age. Fewer than 2 percent of cases occur in those individuals under 40 years of age.
You may not know you have colorectal cancer because there are no warning signs in the early stages of the disease. The concept of screening is being tested when a person is feeling fine and has no symptoms or problems. The best way to know if you have colorectal cancer—before you have symptoms—is to be screened for the disease.
Silver Cross Hospital is offering free Colon Cancer Screening kits during the month of March. Using the kit, you will collect a stool sample in your home and send it to the hospital’s Lab to be tested for blood. Results are mailed back for patients to share with their physician. To request a colon cancer kit, click here or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).
Anyone can be stricken with colorectal cancer. Men and women over age 50 have the greatest risk. You should have screenings earlier and more frequently if you have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps, or have a personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease.
However, when symptoms do occur, they might include:
- any change in the usual pattern or frequency of bowel habits
- diarrhea, constipation, or a feeling that your bowels have not emptied completely
- blood in the stool that is either bright-red or very dark
- stools that are narrower than usual
- frequent gas pains, cramping or bloating.
The majority of colon cancer cases begin as small, non-cancerous growths—called polyps—that can become cancerous over time. Polyps may appear in either the colon or the rectum, both of which are part of the large intestine. Fortunately, up to 90 percent of colon and rectal cancers can be prevented just by finding and removing polyps before they become a cancer.
For a referral to a physician who diagnoses and treats colon cancer, click here or call the Silver Cross Physician Referral Service at 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).