Health Awareness- Colorectal Cancer Awareness

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and this month is a very significant month for me, because my mother died from colorectal cancer. I feel like if I could have shared with her what I learned in school earlier maybe she would still be alive today. So, it is so important for me to make sure that I share the information about colorectal cancer so no one else will feel the pain that I felt when I lost my best – my mother. 

So, in this post I am going to attempt to answer the following questions: (1.) What is Colorectal Cancer? (2.) Who does Colorectal Cancer affect? (3.) How is Colorectal Cancer transmitted? (4.) What are the risk factors?(5.) How is Colorectal Cancer treated? (6.) Can Colorectal Cancer be prevented?  Now, let’s begin:

* My source is the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and CDC (www.cdc.gov), which are very reliable sources.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.

Cancer starts when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body.

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time (usually many years), but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of a polyp changing into cancer depends on the type of polyp it is. The 2 main types of polyps are:

  • Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): These polyps sometimes change into cancer. Because of this, adenomas are called a pre-cancerous condition.
  • Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps: These polyps are more common, but in general they are not pre-cancerous.

Here are some quick facts about this chronic disease:

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2019 are:
    • 101,420 new cases of colon cancer
    • 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer
  •  The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 22 (4.49%) for men and 1 in 24 (4.15%) for women. This risk is slightly lower in women than in men.
  • In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined. It’s expected to cause about 51,020 deaths during 2019.
Who does Colorectal Cancer affect?

Your risk of colorectal cancer goes up as you age. Younger adults can get it, but it’s much more common after age 50. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older.

About 37.3% of white men and women, 43.2% of black men and women,30.1% American Indian/Alaska Native men and women, 28.8% Asian/Pacific Islander men and women, and 33.5% of Hispanic American men and women had colorectal cancer in 2015.

African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the US. The reasons for this are not fully understood.

Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks of any ethnic group in the world.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.

If you have symptoms, they may include:

  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
  • Losing weight and you don’t know why.

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.

What are the risk factors?

Research has found several risk factors that may increase your chances of getting coloretal cancer.

The risk factors include having:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
  • A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • External or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
  • Lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for colorectal cancer, including:
    • Lack of regular physical activity.
    • A diet low in fruit and vegetables.
    • A low-fiber and high-fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats.
    • Overweight and obesity.
    • Alcohol consumption.
    • Tobacco use.

How is Colorectal Cancer Treated?

No matter which treatment option you are considering, it’s important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs.

Screening is the process of looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms. Several tests can be used to screen for colorectal cancer (You can visit the American Cancer Society website to see the American Cancer Society Guideline for Colorectal Cancer Screening). These tests can be divided into 2 main groups:

  • Stool-based tests: These tests check the stool (feces) for signs of cancer. These tests are less invasive and easier to have done, but they need to be done more often.
  • Visual (structural) exams: These tests look at the structure of the colon and rectum for any abnormal areas. This is done either with a scope (a tube-like instrument with a light and tiny video camera on the end) put into the rectum, or with special imaging (x-ray) tests.

These tests each have different pros and cons, and some of them might be better options for you than others. But the most important thing is to get screened, no matter which test you choose.

If a cancer diagnosis is given, staging provides important information about the extent of cancer in the body and anticipated response to treatment.

Below are a list of treatment options that you should speak with your doctor about to gain more understanding of the treatment option:

Local Treatments:

Some treatments are called local therapies. This means they treat the tumor without affecting the rest of the body. These treatments are more likely to be useful for earlier stage cancers (smaller cancers that haven’t spread), but they might also be used in some other situations. Types of local therapy used for colorectal cancer include:

  • Surgery for Colon Cancer
  • Surgery for Rectal Cancer
  • Ablation and Embolization for Colorectal Cancer
  • Radiation Therapy for Colorectal Cancer

Systemic Treatments:

Colorectal cancer can also be treated using drugs, which can be given by mouth or directly into the bloodstream. These are called systemic therapies because they can reach cancer cells throughout the body. Depending on the type of colorectal cancer, different types of drugs might be used, such as:

  • Chemotherapy for Colorectal Cancer
  • Targeted Therapy Drugs for Colorectal Cancer
  • Immunotherapy for Colorectal Cancer

Common Treatment Approaches:

Depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors, different types of treatment may be combined at the same time or used after one another.

Clinical Trial:

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they’re not right for everyone. If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials.

Alternative or Complementary Treatment Methods:

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be harmful. Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision.

Can Cervical Cancer be Prevented?

There’s no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer. But there are things you can do that might help lower your risk, such as changing the risk factors that you can control.

Risk factors that you can change:

– Weight: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women, but the link seems to be stronger in men. Having more belly fat (that is, a larger waistline) has also been linked to colorectal cancer. Staying at a healthy weight and avoiding weight gain around the midsection may help lower your risk.

-Physical activity: Increasing your level of activity lowers your risk of colorectal cancer and polyps. Regular moderate activity (doing things that make you breathe as hard as you would during a brisk walk) lowers the risk, but vigorous activity might have an even greater benefit. Increasing the intensity and amount of your physical activity may help reduce your risk.

-Diet: Overall, diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (and low in red and processed meats) have been linked with lower colorectal cancer risk, although it’s not exactly clear which factors are important. Many studies have found a link between red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) or processed meats (such as hot dogs, sausage, and lunch meats) and increased colorectal cancer risk. Limiting red and processed meats and eating more vegetables and fruits may help lower your risk. In recent years, some large studies have suggested that fiber in the diet, especially from whole grains, may lower colorectal cancer risk. Research in this area is still under way.

-Alcohol: Several studies have found a higher risk of colorectal cancer with increased alcohol intake, especially among men. Avoiding excess alcohol may help reduce your risk.

Also, get regular medical checkups. Early detection and treatment can set the stage for a lifetime of better overall health.

*Source- The CDC (www.cdc.gov) and American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org)

For more information you can also visit www.cdc.gov, or www.cancer.org

Please check out my shop page (JAccessories) to purchase Colorectal Cancer Awareness bracelets – Dark/Electric Blue or Royal Blue colored accessories (paracord bracelet, cord bracelet, or charm bracelet) today.  Half of the proceeds from a purchase made will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

Until next time remember that Life Is But A Journey….