A: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Many of these deaths occur because the cancer is not found early enough. When found early, colorectal cancer is very treatable.
Colorectal cancer seldom causes obvious symptoms, however there are multiple warning signs to be aware of. They include blood in the stools, change in stool consistency, abdominal cramping, fatigue and weight loss. Colorectal cancer is more common with age, therefore initial screening is recommended at age 50. However, some people are at higher risk of colorectal cancer at younger ages and screening should be done sooner. Those at risk at younger ages include those with a family history of colorectal cancer, personal history of colon polyps and a personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohns Disease. Screening for colorectal cancer may help detect the cancer before symptoms have developed. Detecting colorectal cancer early is important, as it increases the chances of a cure. There are several ways of screening for colorectal cancer, but the most effective way is with a colonoscopy. Patients are given medication prior to this procedure to make it more comfortable. Then a thin, flexible tube connected to a video monitor is inserted into the rectum and advanced through the entire colon. This allows the surgeon to visualize the entire colon and locate any possible polyps or masses that may need to be biopsied. There are also other ways of screening for colorectal cancer, although most are not as accurate as a colonoscopy. If you are unable to undergo a colonoscopy for any reason, then speak to your health care provider about these other options.
Information from www.familydoctor.org, provided by Amy Lamberti, PA-C, Mercy East Family Practice, 5900 E. University Ave., Suite 200, 643-2400.