PHILADELPHIA (March 1, 2017) – In honor of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Fox Chase Cancer Center is urging both patients to schedule a colorectal cancer screening. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death when numbers for both men and women are combined. One’s lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is approximately 1 in 21 (4.7%) for men and 1 in 23 (4.4%) for women.
“Regular screening is inarguably one of the best ways to detect colorectal cancer early, when it is most curable or even totally preventable,” says David Weinberg, MD, Chair of Medicine and Chief of the Gastroenterology Section at Fox Chase. “Some polyps, or growths, can be found and removed even before they have a chance to turn into cancer. That’s a powerful argument for getting your colorectal screening when your doctor recommends.”
Starting at age 50, men and women are at average risk for developing colorectal cancer, according to the ACS. “Risk increases with age, so get screened if you are 50 years or older,” advises Dr. Weinberg. “Those with a family history of colorectal cancer or personal history of colorectal polyps or gastrointestinal disease may need to be tested earlier or more often.”
The ACS links several risk factors to colorectal cancer. While some risk factors, such as age and genetics, cannot be changed, others may be addressed to significantly reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer:
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet. Diets high in red meats (beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (hot dogs, sausage and lunch meats) have been found to increase one’s risk for colorectal cancer. Diets high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Physically inactive individuals have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer. An increased activity level can lower the risk of colorectal cancer and polyps.
- Overweight and obesity. Persons who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of colon cancer as well as increased risk of dying of colon cancer when compared with people considered normal weight. Having more belly fat (a larger waistline) has also been linked to colorectal cancer.
- Smoking and alcohol use. Smokers and heavy alcohol users may have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer.
Some of the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, that lasts longer than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that doesn’t go away after doing so
- Rectal bleeding, dark stool, or blood in the stool
- Cramping or stomach pain
- Weakness and fatigue
“It is important to note that individuals may experience no signs at all when the disease is in its earliest stages. And, symptoms may vary when they do appear,” says Dr. Weinberg. “I advise people to see their doctor right away if they experience any symptoms at all, even if they feel other conditions are causing them.”