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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

By Sumalatha Satoor, MD, Gastroenterologist, Methodist Gastroenterology

Colorectal cancer (CRC), cancer of the large intestine, is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in the U.S., claiming over 50,000 lives annually, affecting both men and women. CRC related deaths have been on a steady decline in the United States for the past several decades due to effective screening and treatment of precancerous lesions called polyps with colonoscopy.

How does colorectal cancer begin?
This cancer usually begins as a benign precancerous growth called a polyp that grows in the inner lining of the large intestine over a period of several years before becoming cancerous. The cancer then spreads both locally into the wall of the intestine and to surrounding organs and tissues in the abdomen, as well as to other organs including the liver, lungs and brain.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Symptoms of colorectal cancer include rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits and stool form, abdominal pain, black stools, weight loss, anemia and intestinal obstruction.

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?
The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age and is also slightly more common in men and African Americans. Geographically, Kentucky residents are at high risk. Risk is highest in individuals with a family history of colon cancer and polyps, personal history of inflammatory bowel disease and personal history of breast cancer. Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes and a diet rich in red meat have been shown to increase the risk. A high fiber diet, aspirin and naproxen usage and hormone therapy after menopause appear to decrease the risk.

What screening methods are used to detect colorectal cancer?
Early cancer and precancerous polyps are often asymptomatic which makes the screening a very important tool in the prevention and early detection. Many modalities are available for early detection and screening for precancerous lesions, including colonoscopy, CT colonography, barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, stool occult blood testing, stool DNA testing, and fecal immunochemical testing (FIT).

Colonoscopy remains the gold standard with wide availability, high level of effectiveness in reduction of CRC Incidence by 40-50% and longest rescreening interval (once every 10 years unless polyps are found).

About Dr. Satoor
Sumalatha Satoor, MD, is a Gastroenterologist who provides care at Methodist Gastroenterology located inside Methodist Health at 1305 North Elm Street in Henderson. She is board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in gastroenterology and internal medicine and provides care to patients with conditions affecting the colon, esophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, small intestine and stomach. Schedule your appointment with Dr. Satoor by calling 270-826-0002.