March 12, 2014

Maury Regional wants you to know the facts on colon cancer

COLUMBIA, Tenn. — During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) would like to encourage everyone age 50 years or older to be screened annually. According to The Center for Disease Control (CDC), with regular screening as many as 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided.

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It also happens to be one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the country. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with advancing age. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people age 50 or older.

“It makes good sense to be screened on a regular basis as suggested by the CDC. Screening tests can find cancer early, when treatment works best,” said Dr. Amit Choksi, a gastroenterologist on the MRMC medical staff. “In the majority of cases, colorectal cancer will develop from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum. These are abnormal growths that can be removed before they turn into cancer.”

Everyone should begin screening soon after turning 50, but the CDC suggests getting tested even earlier if you or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer or you have inflammatory bowel disease.

Contact your physician if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Changes in bowel movements, including persistent constipation or diarrhea
  • Dark patches of blood in the stool; or long, thin, "pencil stools"
  • Persistent abdominal pain or bloating
  • Unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, and/or weight loss

Several tests are available to screen for colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor to determine which test or tests are best for you. Some recommended screenings include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy together with a double contrast barium enema

“There is little definitive evidence about ways to prevent colorectal cancer other than screening. Some studies have shown that maintaining a healthy weight and increased physical activity may decrease the risk,” said Dr. Choksi. “Experts have been researching diet, certain medications and supplements, but certainly the most effective way to reduce your risk today is by having regular screenings.”