According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It is also the third most common cancer diagnosed at Emory Johns Creek Hospital, and the number of cases diagnosed at Emory Johns Creek has increased each year since 2007.
It is well known that the earlier we can make a cancer diagnosis, the better the chance for successful treatment. The Cancer Committee at Emory Johns Creek reviewed data on colon cancers diagnosed at the hospital and found that more than 50% of its cases were diagnosed at a later stage. In fact, about 52% were detected at stage III or IV. According to the National Cancer Database (NCDB), the national average is about 39%.
The reason early diagnosis makes a difference: When diagnosed at stage I or II, the cancer is usually still confined to the colon and has not yet spread into lymph nodes or other organs. In these early stages, surgery to remove the tumor is frequently the only treatment required. Additionally, the outlook for long term survival is greater at these stages.
When colon cancers are detected at later stages, surgery often has to be combined with other therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiation. At Emory Johns Creek, about 45% of patients can be treated with surgery alone, compared to 58% nationally. For the Johns Creek community, this highlights the importance of getting colonoscopy screenings ensure that any diagnosis is made at the earliest possible stage.
Individuals should speak to their physicians about when it is appropriate to begin screenings, but the American Cancer Society recommends both men and women should begin screenings at age 50. However, individuals who have had polyps, a family history of colorectal cancer or have suffered from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, may need to begin screenings earlier.
Make a New Year’s resolution to fight colorectal cancer:
- If you are 50 years or older, call your physician to help you get scheduled for a screening
- If you have friends and family 50 years or older, or may be at higher risk, urge them to schedule a screening