Monthly Health Article – Colorectal Cancer Awareness

March 4, 2019

What to know about colorectal cancer and how to protect yourself

Do you remember when you used to put on your favorite bell bottoms and disco dance the night away? If you do, then it’s probably time to think about a routine colonoscopy screening. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, excluding skin cancers. And the vast majority of these cases occur in people 45 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, thanks in large part to effective colonoscopy screenings that can detect the disease in its early stages.

What are the symptoms?

Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages – another reason that screenings are so important. Still, you should see your doctor if you have any of these warning signs:

  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Blood in the stool or in the toilet after a bowel movement
  • 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
  • Unintentional weight loss

While these symptoms can also be indicative of other health conditions, your doctor can help you get to the root of the issue and determine the underlying cause.

How can I help prevent it?

Colonoscopy screenings are the number one way you can reduce your 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 45 and over, the disease does not discriminate and can happen to men and women at any age.

Fortunately, colonoscopies are an easier procedure than many people realize. You will likely be given pain medication and a sedative shortly before to minimize discomfort, and the procedure typically takes approximately 30 minutes. During that time, any polyps found will be removed by the doctor and tissue samples will be sent for a biopsy.

You can also be proactive in prevention in other ways. Living a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol intake and eliminating smoking can reduce your risk for colorectal and many other forms of cancer. Knowing your family’s medical history is also important – a history of the disease in your immediate family puts you at a higher risk for the disease.

Contact Harris Regional Hospital at 844.414.DOCS to schedule your colonoscopy today.