ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — March is national colorectal cancer awareness month. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death in both men and women and it is expected to cause more than 51,000 deaths in 2019. Even though a colonoscopy can lower your risk of dying from colorectal cancer, many people are afraid of the big scope. Here are some reasons why it may all be in your head.
Ninety percent of colon cancers are preventable, but only about 50 percent of people who should have colonoscopies actually get them. One reason many give is fear of pain. However, doctors say most patients shouldn’t feel any pain because they’re placed under anesthesia.
Matthew Ciorba, MD, Washington University in St. Louis, says, “Most the time, patients basically enter into a relative dream-like twilight zone level and then when they wake up, they don’t even remember that the procedure was done.”
Another reason people shy away from getting their colonoscopy is because of the prep that’s involved. However, the prep that is needed for a colonoscopy has vastly improved in recent years.
Dr. Ciorba continues, “Now there are some other options that also can use about half that volume, so about a half a gallon of liquid.”
There are also at-home colon cancer screening kits, but they’ll need to be repeated more often than a colonoscopy. You’ll also still need a colonoscopy if the at-home test detects cancer. Finally, even if you think a colonoscopy is the worst thing in the world, it might help save your life.
“I have had a colonoscopy and I have had cancer and cancer is worse, so much worse,” said cancer patient, Anne Schreiber.
And you are not too young for a colonoscopy. The American Cancer Society has found a sharp increase of adults in their 20’s and 30’s being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Someone born in 1990 had double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer than someone born in 1950.
Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.
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BACKGROUND: Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death. It affects men and women equally, and people of all races and nationalities. The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is about one in 20. The 5-year relative survival rate for Stage 1 and Stage II colon cancer is 90%. The 5-year survival rate for patients diagnosed at Stage III is 70% and Stage IV is 12%. Colorectal cancer usually develops slowly over a period of 10 to 15 years. Rates in the U.S. vary widely by geographic area. Contributing factors include regional variations in risk factors and access to screening and treatment. Compared to whites, all other racial/ethnic groups are less likely to have colorectal cancer found in the early stages. Often, those who are diagnosed with colon cancer have experienced no signs or symptoms associated with the disease. Currently, only about two-thirds of people aged 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, report having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines. While most people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history of the disease, those with a family history of the disease should begin screening at an earlier age.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Signs and symptoms of colon cancer can include a change in your bowel habits, (including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool that lasts longer than four weeks), rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, persistent abdominal discomfort (such as cramps, gas or pain),
a feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they’ll likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine. It’s not clear what causes colon cancer. Doctors know that it occurs when healthy cells in the colon develop errors in their genetic blueprint, the DNA. Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But when a cell’s DNA is damaged and becomes cancerous, cells continue to divide, even when new cells aren’t needed. As the cells accumulate, they form a tumor. With time, the cancer cells can grow to invade and destroy normal tissue nearby. Cancerous cells can travel to other parts of the body to form deposits there, known as metastasis. Talk to your doctor about when you should begin screening for colon cancer. Guidelines generally recommend that colon cancer screenings begin at age 50.
RESEARCH SUGGESTS BREAKTHROUGH: Researchers at Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute recently discovered a gene that could be a new key weapon in fighting colorectal cancer. “There are only five-to-six major drugs available today for treatment of colon cancer, and that’s not enough,” said Timothy J. Yeatman, MD, director and president of Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute. “We need more drugs and more effective ones. The research we have conducted provides hope and promise of a future cure.” Investigators studied more than 20,000 genes in colorectal cancer tumors to find the one – PTPRS – that could be an ideal target for new cancer treatment. “As it turns out, we found one of 20,000 proteins that appears to be associated with controlling one of the most important growth pathways of cancer,” Dr. Yeatman said. “This is the first study in colon cancer to identify this gene as being important.”
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