Break out your blue for March 4 to show your support for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and to make people more aware of the importance of being screened.
According to the American Cancer Society, if diagnosed early, the survival rate for patients with colorectal cancer is 90 percent. Because this form of cancer has little to no symptoms in the early stages, it is important for people to get screened.
St. Lawrence Health’s (SLH) Gastroenterology Department is comprised of a team of six providers. Colonoscopies are available at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Gouverneur Hospital, and Massena Hospital.
SLH Gastroenterologist Luis Canales, MD, noted the current guidelines recommend adults receive their first colonoscopy at age 45, or earlier if they have a family history of the disease.
“Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States. Two-thirds of people diagnosed with colon cancer do not have a family history of the disease,” Dr. Canales said.
While the majority of patients with early stage colorectal cancer will not have any symptoms, anyone who has bloody stools/rectal bleeding, persistent abdominal pain, unexplained anemia, and a persistent change in bowel habits with unintentional weight loss, should contact their provider to have a colonoscopy scheduled.
Some people think that since no polyps are found during their routine colonoscopies, they can stop having them. Dr. Canales points out, however, that continuing to have regular screenings is vital.
“The whole point of performing this screening test is to be able to prevent colon cancer through early detection. Routine colon cancer screening is recommended up until age 75, regardless of the presence or absence of polyps. After age 75, screening may be continued on a case-by-case basis through shared decision making with your provider,” she said.
St. Lawrence Health Director of Food and Nutrition Services Lauren Smith noted colorectal health is often related to a person’s lifestyle and eating habits.
“Limiting red meats to twice a week, and replacing it with lean meats, poultry, fish, or plant-based proteins is a great start,” she said. “A high intake of processed sugar not only increases your weight, but it has a direct link to colon cancer. So increase your consumption of fiber through whole grains, beans/legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables.”
Dr. Canales added that an increase in exercise and decrease in alcohol and tobacco use is also important for the body.
“We know obesity, decreased activity, and the use of tobacco/excessive alcohol are associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer,” he said.
Learn more about colorectal cancer, or schedule an appointment with a St. Lawrence Health gastroenterologist.
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