Topic of the Month: Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people 50 years or older. It is the third most common cancer in the United States, behind only lung and prostate cancers in men and lung and breast cancers in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death.
In fact, it is estimated that in 2013, 50,830 people will die of colon cancer. But the truth is: it doesn't have to be this way. If everyone 50 years or older had a regular screening test, as many as 80% of deaths from colon cancer could be prevented.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer begins when normal cells in the lining of the colon or rectum begin to change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass called a tumor. A tumor can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous, meaning it can spread to other parts of the body). These changes usually take years to develop; however, in some cases, when a person has an inherited syndrome, changes can occur within months to years. Both genetic and environmental factors can cause the changes.
What are the Types of Colon Cancer?
Most colon and rectal cancers are a type of tumor called adenocarcinoma, which is cancer of the cells that line the inside tissue of the colon and rectum. This section specifically covers adenocarcinoma. Other types of cancer that occur far less frequently but can begin in the colon or rectum include carcinoid tumor, gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), and lymphoma.
Are You at Increased Risk?
Did your grandparents have colon cancer? Have any of your relatives ever had polyps? Knowing the answers to questions like these could tell you if you are at an increased risk for colon cancer.
If you have a family history of: colon or rectal cancer, cancer or rectal polyps, stomach or bowel problems, or other diseases such as breast and ovarian cancers, Crohn’s and Colitis, you and your family members are at a greater risk of developing colon cancer. The Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Clinic at the Lurie Cancer Center can help patients with known risk factors develop a personalized program to help lower those risks.
Why is Screening for Colorectal Cancer Important?
Many colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular screening. Screening can find precancerous polyps— abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening is crucial because when found early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. Early stages of colorectal cancer usually present no symptoms, which tend to appear as the cancer progresses.
Can I Reduce My Risk?
You can lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer by managing the risk factors that you can control, like diet and physical activity. Diets high in vegetables and fruits have been linked with lower risk of colon cancer. Diets high in processed and/or red meats have been linked with a higher risk.
What Are the Treatment Options?
Many colon cancer treatment options are available for colorectal cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Here’s what to expect from each type of treatment and tips for recovery.
March 22, 2013 is Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Awareness Day
Lynch syndrome is a genetic disease that dramatically increases the risk of cancer, especially colon and uterine cancers. For those at increased risk, knowledge about Lynch Syndrome can help identify affected individuals, prevent future cancers and diagnose cancers at the earliest possible stage.