Death from colorectal cancer is preventable, yet lumped together, colon and rectal cancer account for about 50,000 deaths annually in the US. Dr. Jim tells how to avoid it.
Colorectal cancer ranks as the third most common cancer in both men and women. Lumped together colon and rectal cancer account for about 140,000 new cases and 50,000 deaths annually in the US.
Fortunately, both the incidence and death rate from colorectal cancer can be avoided.
Risk factors include: obesity, physical inactivity; diets rich in processed meats, beef, pork and lamb; smoking, diabetes and heavy alcohol use.
Unfortunately, individuals with a family history for colorectal cancer, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis or a personal history for colorectal cancer have risk factors which, cannot be modified. So careful surveillance is necessary to diagnose colon cancer early in these individuals.
Here’s what you can do to prevent or modify the consequences of colorectal cancer.
- First and foremost, improve your health behaviors: reduce weight, exercise more, reduce consumption of meats, stop smoking for goodness sake and limit alcohol use to no more than two drinks daily.
- Get screened regularly. The new fecal immunochemical or FIT test is easy to perform, highly accurate in diagnosing colorectal cancer and much safer than colonoscopy.
- For individuals with symptoms, a positive FIT test or significant risk factors for colorectal cancer, colonoscopy is the gold standard. Colonoscopy is not without risk and thorough cleansing of the colon prior to the procedure is necessary for a quality examination.
Lee, J. et al, 2014. Accuracy of fecal immunochemical test for colorectal cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014: Feb 4; 160(3) 171. Online [available at]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4189821/ Accessed February 24, 2019.
American Cancer Society, May 30, 2018. Colorectal Cancer. Online [available at]: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html Accessed February 24, 2019.