colon cancer

Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Dr. Seth Rosen Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer in 2017.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth, called a polyp, in the inner lining of the colon or rectum and slowly progresses through the other layers. Removing a noncancerous polyp early can keep it from becoming a cancerous tumor, which is why screening is such an important tool for preventing this disease.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms. It’s important to get screened regularly.

If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in stool
  • Unintended weight loss

If you develop symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor immediately.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Your risk for developing colorectal cancer increases as you get older. Younger adults can get colorectal cancer, but more than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older.

Other risk factors include:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Personal or Family History of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Your racial and ethnic background
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet
  • Overweight and obesity

Colorectal Cancer Screenings

Several tests are used to detect colorectal cancers, one of the most commonly used tests is a colonoscopy. During this test, the doctor uses a colonoscope (a thin tube with a small video camera on the end) to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to biopsy or remove any suspicious-looking polyps.

Other tests include:

  • Double-contrast barium enema (DCBE)
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
  • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
  • Stool DNA test

When should I get screened? 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults age 50 to 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. Adults age 76 to 85 should ask their doctor if they should be tested. However, you may need to get screened earlier than 50 if you meet certain risk factors.

If you believe you are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, talk with your doctor to determine how often you should be tested and what screening is right for you.

Colorectal Cancer Treatments

There are many ways to treat colorectal cancer depending on its type and stage.

  • Some treatments may include local therapies such as: surgery, radiation therapy, ablation or embolization
    • These treatments are often used for earlier stage cancers
  • Systematic treatments including chemotherapy and targeted therapy may be used because they can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body

Next Steps

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, please call 404-778-1900 or 888-946-7447 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Winship Cancer Care

Your Winship multidisciplinary care team includes oncology surgeons, colorectal surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers and advanced practice nurses with expertise in colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers. The benefits of our multidisciplinary and highly experienced teams include:

  • Access to doctors and surgeons who rank among the top colorectal cancer experts in the world
  • Weekly review of patient cases by the full team of experts
  • Coordinated scheduling for appointments among various specialties
  • Access to a nurse navigator to assist you throughout the treatment process
  • Access to support groups and education classes for you and your caregivers
  • Availability of new treatment options within our clinical trials program

Bio – Dr. Seth Rosen

Dr. Seth Rosen is a board certified colon and rectal surgeon. He’s an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery at Emory University School of Medicine. As chair of Emory Healthcare’s Robotic Institute Committee, Dr. Rosen leads a team that is tracking utilization of robotic surgery throughout Emory Healthcare, including outcomes, quality, cost, and efficiency; identifying areas for improvement; and initiating plans based on its recommendations.

Dr. Rosen is a Fellow of The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and a current member of the Medical Association of Georgia.

He’s also a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

Takeaways from the Colorectal Cancer Live Chat at Winship

colorectal-chat-emailThanks to everyone who joined us Tuesday, March 8th for the live online colorectal cancer program chat at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University hosted by Drs. Bassel El-Rayes & Seth Rosen.

Drs. El-Rayes & Rosen answered several of your questions about colorectal cancer risk factors, symptoms and therapy. The colorectal cancer program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University offers multidisciplinary teams including oncology surgeons, radiologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, and advanced practice nurses with expertise in colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers. There are a variety of treatment options for colorectal cancer; for some patients, a combination of treatment methods may be used.

Check out the conversation by viewing the chat transcript! Here are just a few questions from the chat:

Question: How prevalent is family history? Should I have a plan to have [colorectal cancer] testing done?

  • Answer from Dr. Rosen: Approximately 15% of colorectal cancer patients have a family history of the cancer.
  • Answer from Dr. El-Rayes: Family history is an important predictor of the risk of developing colon cancer. Patients with family history of multiple relatives with colorectal or other cancers should seek evaluation to determine if their family history puts them at added risk for developing cancer. At Winship we have a multidisciplinary team that includes geneticists, genetic counselors, colorectal surgeons, gastroenterologists, and medical oncologists who can work with families who have inherited pre-dispositions for colon cancer.

Question: If you have been diagnosed/hospitalized (8 years ago) with divraticulos how often should you have a colonoscopy? And is it related to bleeding that starts and stops when you are stressed and your bowels lock up? And is it hereditary?

  • Answer from Dr. Rosen: Diverticular disease does not have any bearing on risk of colorectal cancer, so it does not change surveillance or screening recommendations. It can cause bleeding, and there is possibly a hereditary component.
  • Answer from Dr. El-Rayes: The frequency of colonoscopy is dependent on family history, presence of chronic inflammatory conditions (like Ulcerative colitis) and presence of polyps. Diverticulosis of in of itself does not impact the risk of developing colon cancer.

Question: If a person with family history of Colon Cancer can’t afford the test who can help them?

  • Answer from Dr. Rosen: The Affordable Care Act offers free screening for colorectal cancer.

 

If you missed this chat, be sure to check out the full list of questions and answers on the web transcript. For more information go to the Colorectal Cancer at Winship Cancer Institute website or 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.

cta-learn-blue

If you have additional questions for Drs. El-Rayes & Rosen, feel free to leave a comment in our comments area below.

 

With a Little Help from Friends

lex gilbert cancer survivorI always assumed that cancer would catch up with me one day. After all, my mother and two of my aunts had breast cancer so I figured I must be next in line. Yet it never occurred to me that the rectal bleeding I’d been experiencing could be colon cancer. Surely the sigmoidoscopy ordered by my doctor would lead me to a quick fix and that would be that. Surprise! When I woke up after the procedure, she came to my bedside and told me I had colon cancer.

When I heard those words I went numb. The world looked as it might if viewed through a funhouse mirror. I remember someone standing nearby handing me a box of Kleenex. I didn’t need the Kleenex. I didn’t cry until many weeks later and boy did I need Kleenex then. I think my soul just closed up shop so it could absorb the gravity of my situation at its own pace, and when it was ready to let go of the emotions, it let go.

Believe me, I am not one of those survivors who talk about what a gift it was to have cancer! I certainly would have preferred to learn the lessons taught by cancer in a less painful way, but all things being equal, there were important lessons learned and I think they are clearly worth passing along. Here’s one.

I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent. One of the most difficult aspects of being a patient was accepting help from friends. When they offered, I’d say that we didn’t need anything even though that was utterly and completely false. Husbands come in handy sometimes and mine immediately jumped on my reluctance to let folks “in.” At the same time, a dear friend and colleague set up an on-line calendar where I could post what I needed and friends could sign up to help. I could ask for someone to buy me groceries on Wednesday, or help me get the house in order on Saturday, or mow the lawn, drive me to an appointment, or just plain keep me company.

The overwhelming response to the calendar and the ensuing discussions made me realize that when people offer help, they want to help! What a revelation! Too many of us deny our friends the satisfaction and fulfillment that helping someone in need gives them. Allowing folks to help also brings them into our lives in a deeper way, resulting in even more satisfying friendships. The Jedi mind-trick is that letting people help is a gift to them, as well as a gift to you.

About Lex Gilbert

Lex Gilbert is a cancer survivor and very active volunteer with Winship Cancer Institute. She originally comes from southern California, where she ran her own marketing and promotions company serving major corporate clients from throughout the U.S. She has been a life-long volunteer and was awarded “top volunteer” by the County of San Diego for her work mentoring a child in foster care. She moved to Atlanta in 2007 and now works in the Office of Health Promotion at Emory. She was awarded the CLASS Distinguished Service Honor in the Division of Campus Life. Bruce Gilbert, her husband of 32 years, is a musician fighting Parkinson’s disease and also volunteers at Winship as a pianist.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.

“Top Secret” Cancer Facts Worth Sharing

cancer secretsIt’s time to stop being embarrassed about the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer and the 3rd leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. More than 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and nearly 50,000 will lose their battle to the disease according to The American Cancer Society.

It’s colon cancer awareness month – share the facts about how a colorectal cancer screening could save your life.

A study, published in JAMA Surgery and recently reported in the NYT, showed that incidences of colorectal cancer have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the mid 1980s. Simply said, more people under the recommended screening age of 50 are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is not embarrassing. There’s simply no sense in keeping secrets from your physician. If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family or have particular symptoms that you’re unsure about then it’s time to get the facts from your doctor. Speak openly about your risk factors, prevention, early detection, and treatment.
Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer are possible by appropriately scheduling a colorectal cancer screening. A conversation with your doctor is always confidential; make it honest and candid.

As a Nurse Practitioner in gastrointestinal cancers, I have had many patients who have stated that they wish they had gotten a colonoscopy as recommended for colorectal cancer screening. They also say they now preach to everyone they know to get their colonoscopies.

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse. No topic is top secret or off limits.

About Ms. Brutcher
Edith Brutcher

A chemotherapy infusion specialist and adult nurse practitioner, Ms. Brutcher’s clinical specialties include gastrointestinal and aerodigestive cancers. She has 27 years experience as a Registered Nurse, and 8 years as an Adult Nurse Practitioner with Medical Oncology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing Adult Practitioner, specializing in oncology and immunology, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis
An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment
Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources