A person’s lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women, making this the third most common cancer diagnosed in American men and women (excluding skin cancers). Disney Cast Members and Employees are encouraged to take advantage of preventive screenings available to them through AdventHealth.
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Changes in your stool, blood in your stool, unintentional weight loss and a sense of bloating or cramping that doesn’t go away could all be signs of colorectal cancer. In many cases, symptoms may not present early on, so it’s important to get regular screenings.
Persistent diarrhea or mucus, bad lower abdominal cramps that don't go away or blood mixed in with and coating your stool could be signs of inflammation of the colon. While blood in stool may not always mean cancer, as sometimes it's just from hemorrhoids or irritation in the anal canal, it’s always something you should get checked out.
Symptoms for many different things tend to overlap, so if you are experiencing one or more of the colorectal cancer symptoms described, it isn’t time to panic. That just means it’s time to speak with your primary care physician and figure out next steps together.
Who’s at Risk?
Up until 2018, the recommended screening for colorectal cancer began at age 50. Now, however, experts and the American Cancer Society suggest starting at age 45. AdventHealth specialists say that we're starting to see colorectal cancer cases diagnosed in younger people more often now. Though the average age group of diagnosis is between 50 to 60, patients of any age can develop colon cancer.
A family history of colorectal cancer elevates your risk of developing it. Family history includes family members who had colon or rectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other polyp-related syndromes. A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue in the colon that can lead to cancer. Of special concern are those family members who developed colon or rectal cancer early in life.
African Americans have an increased risk of colon cancer, and men have a slightly higher risk than women. Additionally, patients with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease are also at an increased risk.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Prevention is key to lowering your risk of colorectal-related issues, and that means regular screenings. Because symptoms may not always present right away, come in for a screening and peace of mind. You can contact the Member Experience Center at 855-747-7476 to begin this process with your primary care physician.
Healthy lifestyle habits like diet, exercise and avoiding alcohol and tobacco are all great ways to stay healthy, but screening is the most important and has the greatest impact. There are links between alcohol and tobacco with development of cancer, so it’s important to speak with your physician about risk-reduction strategies and try to quit smoking. All healthy lifestyle habits act as risk reduction but can’t definitively prevent cancer.
Studies have shown a direct correlation between a Western diet — consisting of large amounts of red meat and fats with low amounts of fiber — to colorectal cancer. You should try to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and other food rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as maintaining an exercise regimen of 30 minutes a day.
Treatment for Colorectal Cancer
Experts say the five-year survival rate for colon and rectal cancer is about 66%, so catching it early through screening is the best way to beat it. The primary treatment for colon cancer is surgery, and chemotherapy is only used for advanced colon cancer.
For early stage cancers, surgery is used to remove any polyps that are found during your colonoscopy. Occasionally a laparoscopy is required for larger polyps that can’t be removed during the coloscopy.
For advanced cases, there are many different approaches available to patients including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and targeted drug therapy.
For more information about colorectal screening, Cast Members and Employees may contact the Member Experience Center at 855-747-7476.