March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. A few weeks ago, we gave you an intro to Colorectal Cancer, including statistics, information on the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer, and information on the most popularly recommended diagnostic test, the colonoscopy. This week, we’re following up with information on preventing and treating cancer of the colon or rectum (also known as colorectal cancer), and providing more information on other methods for diagnosing.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Receiving regular screenings is going to be the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. Catching cancer early while it is still curable and/or removing polyps before they turn cancerous are keys to survival. According to the American Cancer Society, “people who have no identified risk factors (other than age) should begin regular screening at age 50.” If you have a strong family history of colon polyps or cancer, getting screened prior to age 50 is highly recommended. Other advice you’ll see for cancer prevention is similar across cancers. A few things you can do to help improve your health and fight off cancer, including colorectal cancer, include: quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Diagnosing Colorectal Cancer
While a colonoscopy is the most common method of diagnosing and staging colorectal cancer and/or other gastrointestinal disorders, there are several other procedures used including:
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: This test uses a flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. It can travel the full length of the rectum and half of the colon.
- Colonoscopy: This test allows the doctor to look at the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, which is a longer version of a sigmoidoscope.
- Double Contrast Barium Enema: A type of x-ray test using barium sulfate, which is a chalky liquid, and air to outline the inner part of the colon and rectum, highlighting abnormal areas on x-rays.
- CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy): This is an advanced type of computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan of the colon and rectum. It is non-invasive, can be done fairly quickly, and does not require sedation.
For more information on each of these procedures, please visit the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.
Treating Colorectal Cancer
After cancer is diagnosed and staged, your multidisciplinary colorectal cancer care team will create a treatment plan using one, or a combination, of these main treatment methods:
- Surgery – Surgery is the main treatment method for colorectal cancer. This procedure involves removing the cancer, a section of normal tissue on either side of the cancer, and any local lymph nodes.
- Radiation Therapy – A type of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation energy to kill cancer cells and shrink cancerous tumors. Colorectal cancer may be treated using external beam radiation before surgery to shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is medication delivered to the body to eliminate cancer cells or greatly reduce their effect. It targets cells that divide rapidly, a characteristic of most cancer cells. Chemotherapy is often used to support and enhance other cancer treatment modalities.
If you are interested in learning more about colorectal cancer, or have questions not covered in this blog, make sure to sign up for Dr. Bassel El-Rayes and Dr. Roberd Bostick’s colon cancer chat tomorrow, March 20th (UPDATE – CHAT TRANSCRIPT). It’s bound to be a great discussion!
Contact us for more information about our colorectal cancer treatment programs: 404-778-1900 or request an appointment online.