March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States. There are more than 150,000 new cases of colon cancer in the United States, effecting all races and ethnicities.
National health organizations now recommend regular colon cancer screenings, beginning at age 45. Until recently, the recommended age to begin screenings was age 50. An increased incidence of late-stage colon cancer in younger people is the reason for this change of recommendations explained Matthias Weiss, MD, an Oncologist/Hematologist at ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) notes that rates of colon cancer in 40 to 49-year-olds has increased by almost 15% from 2000-2002 to 2014-2016.
Dr. Weiss stressed the new age 45 guideline applies to most people.
“If you’re 45 to 75 years old, getting screened regularly, is a key step in helping to prevent colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Weiss. “If you’re younger than 45, and you believe you might be at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer, perhaps because of a family history of the disease, we encourage you to talk with your provider about screening options and recommendations.”
For people who do not have an increased risk of colorectal cancer, they can repeat a colonoscopy every 10 years.
According to Dr. Weiss, even though colonoscopy is considered the gold standard of screenings, there are three main ways to check for colorectal cancer:
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): This test checks for blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer.
- Stool DNA test: This test looks for DNA markers that indicate the presence of colorectal cancer.
- Colonoscopy: This test involves the insertion of a long, flexible tube into the rectum to visually inspects the colon for any abnormalities or cancer.
“We are encouraged by the updated screening guidelines,” said Dr. Weiss. “With new information and advances in screenings and prevention, we hope to provide better outcomes for patients through early detection.”
More than 15 million colonoscopies are performed in the U.S. each year. However, data from USPSTF shows that in 2016, 25.6% of eligible adults in the US had never been screened for colorectal cancer, and in 2018, 31.2% were not up to date with their screenings.
For more information about scheduling an appointment for a colonoscopy, visit thedacare.org/services/cancer-and-blood-disorders/screenings-prevention/colonoscopy-screening/.
Colorectal cancer might not cause symptoms right away. Dr. Weiss stressed symptoms can be non-specific, which is why regular screenings are important. Symptoms of colon cancer include rectal bleeding, changes in bowel movements (constipation, diarrhea, etc.), abdominal pain, fatigue, anemia, unexplained weight loss, decreased appetite.
If you experience any of these symptoms, speak with a health care provider as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment have shown to improve outcomes.
Risk factors include a diet high in red meat and processed foods, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. To reduce your risk, physicians recommend you focus on four key lifestyles:
- Eat a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-fiber foods.
- Exercise regularly, which improves physical and emotional well-being and prevents unhealthy weight gain.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
- Get a colonoscopy (even if you feel healthy) and other recommended cancer screening procedures
To learn more about Colorectal Cancer, along with symptoms, prevention and treatment, please visit: thedacare.org/services/cancer-and-blood-disorders/types-of-cancer/gastrointestinal-cancer/.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.