March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to schedule a colonoscopy screening. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women combined in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Right here in Wilson, colon cancer ranks as the fourth most common type of cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013:
• 136,119 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 71,099 men and 65,020 women.
• 51,813 people in the United States died from colorectal cancer, including 27,230 men and 24,583 women.
As with any cancer, is it very important to detect colorectal cancer early, and the most effective screening is a colonoscopy. The five-year survival rate for colon cancer is about 92 percent, and the five-year survival rate for rectal cancer is about 87 percent. However, due to low screening rates, only 40 percent of colorectal cancers are caught early.
Not only can a colonoscopy detect cancer early, but it can prevent cancer by helping us identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous. We recommend that everyone talk to their doctor about their colorectal cancer risks and discuss when a colonoscopy could be right for them.
If you do not have any colorectal symptoms or family history of colon cancer, we recommend that you receive your first exam at age 50.
Doctors are however concerned with increasing reports of colon cancer found in young patients, some of them in their 20s and 30s. You may have seen a recent news segment on “NBC Nightly News” that profiled a 27 year-old mother with stage 2 colon cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is a great opportunity to learn more about the signs and symptoms of this type of cancer.
As with most cancers, colorectal cancers do not discriminate and can happen to both men and women and any age. Although colorectal cancers are often symptomless in the early stages, here are some symptoms that should raise a red flag.
• Bleeding from the rectum;
• Blood in the stool or in the toilet after a bowel movement;
• A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool;
• 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.
Remember, screening is the number one way you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. In 2017, it is recommended that even if a younger person has these symptoms, they should see a gastroenterologist so that serious conditions can be detected at an early and possibly curable stage.
If you’d like to schedule a screening, contact Wilson Gastroenterology at 252-243-7977.
Dr. Mamun Shahrier is a board-certified gastroenterologist practicing at Wilson Gastroenterology located at 2605 Forest Hills Road in Wilson.