Protecting Yourself from Colorectal Cancer

April 13, 2018

Those who used to put on a pair of favorite bell bottoms and disco dance the night away might be at a time in their lives when having a routine colonoscopy screening should be considered.  According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, excluding skin cancers.  Additionally, the vast majority of these cases occur in people 50 and older.

The good news is that the overall incidence of, and death rates associated with, colorectal cancers have been on the decline for more than a decade due to effective colonoscopy screenings that can detect the disease in its early stages.

"Colonoscopies are so important because they can improve our ability to detect colorectal cancer quickly and early, thus making the disease much more easily treatable," says Dr. Tom Manchester, a general surgeon on staff at Colorado Plains Medical Center.  "Colonoscopies can also help us identify and remove colorectal polyps before they even become cancerous.  The benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of the preparation."

Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages, which is another reason that screenings are so important.  Nevertheless, a doctor should be seen if any of these warning signs are present:

Bleeding from the rectum;

Blood in the stool or in the toilet after a bowel movement;

Change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of stools;

Persistent cramping or discomfort in the lower abdomen;

An urge to have a bowel movement when the bowel is empty

Constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days;

Decreased appetite;

Nausea or vomiting; and

Unintentional weight loss

While these symptoms can also be indicative of other health conditons, a doctor can get to the root of the issue and determine the underlying cause.

Colonscopy screenings are the number one way to reduce risk of colorectal cancer since the screenings can help detect the disease early or find polyps before they become cancerous.  While the vast majority of new cases occur at age 50 and older, the disease does not discriminate and can affect both men and women at any age.

"We recommend that everyone talk to their medical provider about their colorectal cancer risks and discuss when a colonoscopy could be right for them," adds Dr. Ed Lopez, general surgeon on staff at Colorado Plains Medical Center.  "Colonoscopies are an easier procedure than many realize.  Shortly before the procedure, you will likely be given a sedative to minimize discomfort.  During the approximately 30 minute procedure, any polyps found will be removed, and tissue samples will be sent for a biopsy."

There are also ways to be proactive in prevention.  Living a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a healthy diet, maintenance of a healthy weight, limitation of alcohol intake, and smoking elimination can reduce risk for colorectal and other forms of cancer.  Knowing one's family medical history is also important since a history of the disease in an immediate family member puts an individual at a higher risk for the disease.

Contact Colorado Plains Medical Center at 1-800-424-DOCS to schedule a colonoscopy with a doctor who performs these procedures.