Medical Monday...Colorectal Cancer

Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 7:04 PM EDT
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -Other than skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis in the United States and the third most common cause of cancer deaths in men and women. This, according to the American Cancer Society. The American Cancer Society also estimates that more than 104,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and health care professionals are taking advantage to remind people of the importance of screening.

Doctor Enrique Bujanda, a general surgeon at Northern Light AR Gould, says, “Colorectal Cancer is actually the most common intestinal kind, or gastrointestinal type of cancer. And in the United States it’s the third most common cancer and it’s actually also the third most common cause of cancer related deaths.”

Because of the high number of people that develop colorectal cancer, Doctor Bujanda says screenings, even if you are feeling fine, are very important.

“The idea of a screening test is to detect, very early, cancer and/or prevent cancer by detecting and possibly removing those little groves that may turn into cancer in the future. You can think of them as stool based tests, and the stool based tests there are many. There’s stool based tests that measure blood amounts in the stool. Others can be a little bit more accurate and use some process to be more accurate regarding the location of blood in the stool. And now a days we actually have DNA based testing in the stool that’s able to identify actual DNA of cancer.”, Bujanda says.

There are also imaging tests, including virtual colonographies, and what is considered the gold standard of screenings, the colonoscopy or endoscopy based testing. Dr. Bujanda says testing for most people begins at age 45, but if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, or have any symptoms that develop, you may need the tests earlier.

Bujanda says, “Low blood levels, belly pain, changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool or in the toilet or on the toilet paper, by the time someone presents with symptoms, there is a high chance the cancer has already spread in advance. For someone in the early stage, such as stage one or stage two at 5 years, you may have a survival about 70-90%. As it increases in stage three of four it can go as dismal as 15%.”

Causes of colorectal cancer vary from family history and inflamatory bowel disease, to obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of physical activity and a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in fatty meats. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and medications.

Dr. Bujanda says colorectal cancer does have a high mortality rate, so he recommends getting tested if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, have any symptoms or are 45 years of age or older. He says it could save your life.

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