Education

Colorectal Cancer: Take Charge With A Screening

A diagnosis of colorectal cancer can be overwhelming and scary. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimated that more than 130,000 people were newly diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year and more than 50,000 died from the disease.

With regular screenings and early detection, this cancer can be discovered when it is most treatable. More importantly, pre-malignant lesions and early cancers, when removed via colonoscopy, essentially provide therapeutic prevention and possible cure, explains Rosendo Collazo, D.O., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care.

These screenings, recommended for people 50 and older, include a test that checks for trace amounts of blood in stool and a colonoscopy — an outpatient procedure performed under sedation during which doctors insert a long, flexible fiber-optic tube into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows doctors to view the inside of the entire colon. They can find and remove polyps — small growths — before they develop into cancer. And if cancer is present, early detection gives patients the best chance at surviving.

Despite these odds, patients are often hesitant to discuss symptoms and go for regular screenings. The disease involves parts of the body that people are uncomfortable or embarrassed to talk about. Studies show that one in three adults between the ages of 50-75 are not following the recommended screening advice.

“We know that screening is the number one way you can reduce your risk of colon cancer,” says Dr. Collazo. “A Screening is a proactive way to stay healthy for patients over 50, the time when colon cancer is most prevalent, or those younger with risk factors.”

Vital Statistics on Colorectal Cancer

While 90 percent of new cases occur in people 50 or older, colorectal cancer does not discriminate and can happen to men and women at any age. In fact, rates in adults younger than 50 have been increasing.

People with first-degree relatives (parent, sibling or children) who have had colorectal cancer are between two and three times more likely to develop the disease than those without a family history. Those with a family history of the disease need to be screened before age 50.

The five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer found at the local stage (confined to colon or rectum) is 90 percent.

Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer

A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days.

A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so.

Rectal bleeding.

Blood in the stool.

Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain.

Weakness and fatigue.

Unintended weight loss.

Most of the time, there are NO symptoms, which makes primary, proactive screening so essential.

“Patients need to talk to their doctor if they experience these symptoms,” Dr. Collazo said. “Seeking medical treatment makes a huge difference in patients’ outcomes.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.