Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States. It is also the second leading cause of deaths in cancer. This is disturbing news for many readers. Researchers say that six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented if screened earlier.

Colorectal cancer is commonly known as rectal cancer or colon cancer depending on where the cancer starts. These two are typically found together considering the numerous commonalities between them.

The following are typical types of colorectal cancer:

Adenocarcinomas: These cancers start in cells that form glands that make mucus to lubricate the inside of the colon and rectum. This is what most doctors refer to when speaking on colorectal cancer.

Carcinoid tumors: These tumors start from specialized hormone-producing cells in the intestine.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs): These tumors start from specialized cells in the wall of the colon. Some are non-cancerous; others are malignant, which means cancerous. These tumors can be found anywhere in the digestive tract, but they are unusual in the colon.

Lymphomas: These are cancers of immune system cells that typically start in lymph nodes, but can start in the colon as well.

Sarcomas: These tumors can start in blood vessels as well as in muscle and connective tissue in the wall of the colon and rectum. These are fairly rare.  

If you are screened early enough, then many of the polyps, or growths, can be removed fairly quickly if detected.

Most importantly, concerns or questions you may have concerning your digestive system contact your physician for more information.

Most doctors will do a fecal occult blood test or stool DNA test. Other tests include colonoscopy, CT colonoscopy (virtual testing), or double contrast barium enema. These are X-ray driven tests to help look at the colon or rectum.

If you are treated with colorectal cancer, then many lifestyle changes may have to occur in order to remain as healthy as possible.

Some of the most important things that doctors recommend are eating healthy, a good night’s rest, and exercising regularly. These things will improve cardiovascular health, immune systems, can help lower anxiety and depression, and will make your muscles stronger.

Both the American Cancer Society and the UAB Comprehensive Cancer recommend screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 for both men and women. We encourage you to talk to your physician to determine the screening option that is right for you.

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