Hey there! March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so I wanted to take a moment to talk about this important topic. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men, and the second deadliest cancer in the United States. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 23 men will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime. However, the good news is that this disease is highly preventable and highly treatable when caught early. In this blog, we will discuss more about colorectal cancer, including risk factors, warning signs and symptoms, and ways to reduce your risk.
What is colorectal cancer and who does it affect?
Colorectal cancer, often just referred to as bowel cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the cells of the colon or rectum. There are five stages of colorectal cancer, from 0-4.
- Stage 0: Cancer cells are present but remain in the top layer of the lining of the colon or rectum and have not invaded deeper.
- Stage 1: Cancer cells have penetrated the mucosa layer and are present in the muscle layer.
- Stage 2: Cancer cells have spread to the walls of the colon or rectum, as well as to the nearby tissues.
- Stage 3: Cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage 4: Cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body.
Why is early detection important when it comes to colorectal cancer?
Detecting colorectal cancer early on is essential to protecting your health and increasing the chances of successful treatment. Research has shown that when colorectal cancer is caught and treated at an early stage, patients have a higher probability of surviving in comparison to those who are diagnosed at a later stage. It is also important to note that many cases of colorectal cancer do not cause symptoms.
That’s why regular screenings for men over 45– or even earlier, depending on your family history or other factors – are so important. Through screenings, doctors can identify any irregularities or inconsistencies in your health before they become more serious issues. National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to make sure you keep up with your regular checkups, so don’t miss out!
There are different screening methods for colorectal cancer, including:
|METHOD||WHAT & HOW||FREQUENCY||PROS||CONS||SENSITIVITY/ SPECIFICITYFOR DETECTING CANCER|
|Colonoscopy||Simple and safe procedure in which your doctor uses a long tube with a light and camera to detect polyps||Every 5-10 years depending on whether polyps are found||Views the entire colon. Polyps can be removed during the procedure if found||Dietary restrictions 1-3 days prior to procedure and prep to clean out the colon is needed||Sens 95%Spec 86%|
|Stool DNA||Tests for abnormal DNA and blood in stool. Collect bowel movement and send back to the lab for analysis using collection apparatus provided with kit.||Every 3 years (according to ACS guidelines)||No prep, dietary restrictions, or changes to medications necessary. Greater accuracy than FIT.||More expensive than FIT if test not covered by insurance. Follow-up colonoscopy necessary if test indicates precancer or cancer.||Sens 92%Spec 87%|
|Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT or iFBOT)||Tests for blood. Swab bowel movement and place on card||Annually||No prep. Done at home. Fairly Inexpensive||Accuracy. Need a colonoscopy if blood is detected. Requires 1-2 separate samples||Sens 73.8%Spec 96.4%|
|Guaiac Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)||Tests for blood. Swab bowel movement and place on card||Annually||No prep. Done at home. Inexpensive||Accuracy, Dietary restrictions, Need a colonoscopy if blood is detected. Requires 3 separate samples||Sens 70%Spec 92.5%|
|Flexible Sigmoidoscopy||Detects polyps. Done at a doctors’ office||Every 5 years, may be combined with annual stool test||No sedation required. Can biopsy if small polyp detected||Only views part of the colon. Need a colonoscopy if larger polyps or other issues are detected||Sens 95%Spec 87%Only left sided cancers|
|Virtual Colonoscopy||Uses x-rays and computers to take 2- or 3-D images of your colon and rectum||Every 5 years||Quicker and less invasive than colonoscopy. No sedation is needed||Expensive and not covered by all insurance carriers, Dietary restrictions 1-3 days before the procedure, full bowel prep is required, If a polyp is found, will need a colonoscopy||Sens 84%Spec 88%|
|Double Contrast Barium Enema||Air and barium are pumped into your rectum. The solution will show polyps or tumors on X-rays.||Every 5-10 years||Done without sedation. Less expensive than colonoscopy||Laxative preparation is required. Polyps cannot be removed during the procedure. If polyps are found, a colonoscopy will be needed||Very low sensitivity and specificity|
What are some of the symptoms of colorectal cancer that men should be aware of?
As men, it’s so important to be aware of the potential symptoms of colorectal cancer – especially during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Common symptoms to look out for can include:
- changes in bowel habits – such as alternating constipation and diarrhea
- bloody stools or rectal bleeding
- abdominal discomfort or pain
- feeling more fatigued than usual
- anemia due to iron deficiency
- unintentional weight loss
These are all potential indications that something is wrong, so be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms – early detection is key when it comes to managing, treating, and preventing colorectal cancer. It is also important to note that the most common symptom of colorectal cancer is no symptom, which is why screenings are so important.
How can men reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer?
Reducing your risk of developing colorectal cancer is important, especially for men. The best way to reduce your chances is by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as:
- Eating a balanced diet: decreasing red meat consumption, avoiding processed meats, and increasing your consumption of plant-based foods.
- Exercising regularly: Prevents obesity, which is a key risk factor.
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Quit smoking
- Manage preexisting diabetes
- Additionally, regular screenings are highly recommended as they can detect precancerous changes in the colon before they become more serious.
By following these simple steps, men can drastically decrease their chance of being diagnosed with this serious and potentially life-threatening form of cancer.
Colorectal cancer is a serious disease that affects both men and women, but there are steps that everyone can take to reduce their risk of developing the disease. Early detection is key when it comes to colorectal cancer, so if you or someone you know has any of the symptoms listed in this blog post, be sure to see a doctor right away. Men can also reduce their chances of getting colorectal cancer by making healthy lifestyle choices and getting screened for the disease regularly. This March, during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, take some time to learn more about this type of cancer and how you can prevent it. And don’t forget to schedule your own colorectal screening today!