With over 200,000 cases diagnosed each year, colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States in men and women combined.
The American Cancer Society Journal reports that more than one-half of all cases and deaths are attributable to modifiable risks such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, high alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and excess body weight. March is recognized as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month so let’s take a look at why this intrusive disease deserves its own month.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a disease in which cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. This results in polyps which are formed in the gastrointestinal tract, specifically in the lining of the colon. While polyps tend to not be bothersome, over time they can develop into cancerous cells. This type of cancer is referred to as a solid tumor cancer since it affects body organs and tissues.
Most risk factors associated with colon cancer are modifiable. An individual with the following lifestyle habits may be susceptible to developing this type of cancer.
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor diet
- Low fiber diet
- Alcohol Consumption
- Tobacco use
Additional Risk Factors
- Age (being over 50)
- Having colorectal cancer previously
- Having a history of adenomatous polyps
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Having diabetes
- Previous endometrial or ovarian cancer
- Women undergoing radiation or gynecological cancer
Types of Polyps
It is important to mention again that not all polyps cause cancer. Those that do result in cancerous cells develop over a long period of time and it depends on the type of polyp. Here are three different types of polyps according to Cancer.com:
- Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): these polyps sometimes change into cancer and therefore are referred to as pre-cancerous polyps. The three types of adenomas are tubular, villous, and tubulovillous
- Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps: these polyps are more common, and are generally not pre-cancerous. Individuals with this type of polyp that is larger than 1cm might need colorectal cancer screenings with a colonoscopy more frequently
- Sessile serrated polyps (SSP) and traditional serrated adenomas (TSA): these polyps are often treated like adenomas because they have a higher risk of colorectal cancer
Most people do not experience symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer. Depending on the location and size of the cancer can determine if someone will experience symptoms from the following list:
- A persistent change in bowel habits including diarrhea or constipation
- Change in stool consistency
- Persistent abdominal discomfort (gas, cramps or other pain)
- A feeling of inability to completely empty the bowel
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Ways to Treat Colon Cancer
Treatment of colon cancer depends on the stage of the cancer at time of diagnosis. Removal of polyps is idea during a colonoscopy as a first treatment. From there, surgery may be indicated followed by chemotherapy for about 6 months. Further treatments can be utilized depending on the stage of the cancer. More information can be found here: cancer.com
At American Online Benefits Group we offer products that help our members receive preventative care to screen for colon cancer. Contact our Agent or Member Services today for more information at 214-389-9072.