When it comes to colorectal cancer, early detection can be the difference between life and death.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States – and it affects men and women in roughly equal numbers.
In 2013, more than 142,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. That same year, more than 50,000 died from the disease.
The numbers are scary, but there are things you can do about it – and early detection is your best weapon.
Colorectal cancer occurs when clusters of cells called polyps begin to grow in the lining of the large intestine or rectum. While most of these growths will remain benign, they can become cancerous. Therefore, if found, polyps should be removed immediately.
What makes colorectal cancer so deadly is that it often presents without symptoms. Some early warning signs to be on the lookout for include regular constipation or diarrhea, rectal cramping or bleeding, blood in your stool, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and, in later stages, pelvic pain. If you experience any combination of these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately to get a screening.
Today, there are several methods used to screen for colorectal cancer. The best method is a colonoscopy, where a doctor uses a tiny camera to examine the rectum and colon. If polyps are found, they can then be biopsied or removed at that same time.
For a less invasive procedure, a doctor can take and examine X-rays of the colon. There is also a new method called a virtual colonoscopy, which uses a CT scan to create a 3-D model of your colon. However, in both minimally invasive methods if polyps are found a traditional colonoscopy will be needed to remove them.
The survival rate for colorectal cancer depends greatly on when it’s caught. That is why early detection is so vitally important. If you experience any changes in your bowel movements, consult your doctor and get tested. Beyond that, doctors strongly recommend a routine colonoscopy every 10 years for those over 50 years old.
If you haven’t been tested – or want more information – don’t miss Fresh Start, our cancer screening event on Saturday, March 22nd in the main atrium of Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee (2301 N. Lake Dr.).
From 10 a.m. to 2p.m., we will be offering free skin cancer screenings, free at-home colorectal cancer screening kits, and walk-in mammography services in our one-of-a-kind Mobile Digital Mammography Center (please bring your insurance card if you would like to have a mammogram onsite). There will also be doctors, healthcare experts and a Genetics Counselor on hand to answer any questions.
This event is free and open to the public. To register, please call (414) 963-WELL (9355).