February 12, 2020
February 26, 2018
You may have heard about healthy lifestyle behaviors that can reduce your risk of developing colon and rectal cancer. Things like maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy weight; eating a diet with lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains; and reducing your consumption of red and processed meats. All are important, and incorporating these habits into your daily life offers health benefits that extend far beyond decreasing your colon cancer risk.
The Best Way to Prevent Colon Cancer
However, when it comes to colorectal cancer prevention, the most important thing you can do is to get screened. I cannot emphasize this enough. If it weren’t for the funny looks I would generate, I would yell it from every street corner: “Get screened. Get a colonoscopy!”
Colonoscopy—generally recommended beginning at age 50; earlier if you have a family history colorectal cancer or signs of the disease--not only detects cancer, but also allows doctors to remove precancerous polyps (small clumps of cells that form in the lining of the colon) during the procedure. This way, colorectal cancer can truly be prevented.
Screening can also identify colorectal cancers early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will lead to a cure. Colonoscopy may not be glamorous, but when compared to a cancer diagnosis, it looks pretty good.
What to Expect if Diagnosed with Colon Cancer
Cancer is a diagnosis no patient ever wants to hear, and no physician ever wants to deliver. The good news is, the majority of times, colon cancer can be treated with the goal of a cure...especially when discovered early through a colonoscopy.
Some early stage cancers that are found in polyps can actually be removed at the time of a colonoscopy. This is called polypectomy and may be the only treatment needed.
More often, surgery will be required. Your surgeon will determine the right type of surgery based on the location of the cancer and whether or not it has spread. Images from computed tomography (CT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can also help physicians decide if treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation should be given before surgery in order to prevent the cancer from returning after surgery.
Surgical options range from removing superficial cancers and surrounding tissue with a procedure called local excision, to removing part of the colon or rectum containing the cancer with segmental resection. Segmental resection can be done with one large single incision (open surgery) or laparoscopically (robotic-assisted surgery) which allows your surgeon to see inside your abdomen using smaller incision to remove the cancer.
Know that when faced with a cancer diagnosis, and a surgical option is the right path, your medical team will be in your corner fighting for and with you each step of the way.
A Final Word on Prevention
To circle back to where we began, while there are a variety of effective treatment options for colorectal cancer, the very best option is always prevention. Join with me. Let’s make colonoscopy a conversation—not just during March’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but all year long.
To find a doctor who performs colonoscopies and learn more about colorectal cancer prevention, visit LGHEALTH.ORG/COLON.