Texas Oncology urges Texans to encourage friends and loved ones to go for a routine colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer of men and women combined in the United States, and it was estimated to have claimed 3,230 Texans in 2011.

Colon and rectal cancers occur with equal frequency in both genders. It is vital that both men and women age 50 and over and those with increased risk factors be screened regularly for this deadly disease. Despite the high likelihood of detection with screening, it is projected that 40 percent of the over-50 population in the United States will not be screened for colorectal cancer. If all people over age 50 were screened routinely, research shows that at least half of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented.

Colorectal cancer often lacks symptoms in its early stages, and because almost all colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed in patients age 50 and up, regular screening helps lead to early detection, which increases the five-year survival rate from the disease to 90 percent.

RISK FACTORS

Besides age and race, other risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

Family History: People with a family history of colorectal cancer have a greater risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

Diet: A lower chance of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is a good reason to stay in shape. Overweight and obese people have a higher risk of developing the disease.

Lynch Syndrome: This inherited condition affecting the body’s genes increases the likelihood of a colorectal cancer diagnosis. In many cases, the disease occurs before age 45. Texas Oncology has genetic testing available at some locations to determine if patients have the gene mutation associated with Lynch Syndrome.

Other Health Problems: Diabetics and people who have a history of polyps and inflammatory bowel disease also have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

SCREENING TYPES

Screening tests for colorectal cancer are not as difficult as many people perceive them to be. In fact, most patients tolerate the screenings very well. Physicians can recommend several different screening tests for colorectal cancer. Among them, a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) or Fecal Immunochemical Test checks for blood in the stool. Another option is a sigmoidoscopy. During this procedure, a physician uses a tube with a light connected to a tiny video camera to analyze the rectum and lower part of the colon.

The most common screening test is a colonoscopy, where the rectum and entire colon are examined through a scope to detect growths or polyps that could potentially pose a threat.

Everyone over age 50 should make routine colorectal cancer screenings a priority in order to kick colorectal cancer before it strikes or catch it early when it’s most treatable. For more information about colorectal cancer or screenings, visit www.TexasOncology.com.

By Marcelo Boek, M.D.