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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital encourages the Katy community to learn more about the preventable disease.Van-Hien Tran, MD, FACS, and a board certified general surgeon at CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital, shares tips for preventing the disease, as well as risk factors and types of screenings available to Katy patients. Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer, as well as the third leading cancer killer of both men and women in the U.S. While this cancer can affect anyone, between 35% and 40% more instances and deaths are seen in men than women. Two of the leading risk factors in the development of the cancer are increasing age and a family history of colorectal cancer. Other factors that could contribute to the likelihood of developing this cancer are lack of physical activity, obesity, alcohol and tobacco use, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Screening colonoscopy has been proven to be the most effective way of detecting abnormal colon growths and early colorectal cancer. The key of surviving colorectal cancer is prevention by removing colon polyps and detecting early cancer. Sixty percent of the deaths that occurred from colorectal cancer could be prevented if the disease was found early. Since most early colorectal cancers are asymptomatic, routine colorectal screening, such as colonoscopy, is an effective and essential tool.

A polyp, which is an abnormal growth of tissue, can be present in the colon or rectum without the patient’s knowledge. Symptoms such as blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, or weight loss are often indications of advanced colorectal tumor.

According to the American Cancer Society, screenings for colorectal cancer are underused procedures that can detect polyps in the colon or rectum as early as 10 years before they become cancerous and allow for its removal before the polyp becomes cancerous. While colorectal cancer is preventable, screenings only detect the cancer if no symptoms are present. There are three types of screening tests that are effective in finding and preventing colorectal cancer:

1.    Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy can be conducted as a screening test or as a diagnostic tool. An instrument called a colonoscope is used to examine the entire colon and rectum. Physicians may collect tissue to further examine or find polyps to remove.

2.    High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
This test is conducted by having three consecutive stool samples tested for blood that could be a result of a polyp in the colon or rectum. This test is a noninvasive procedure and is conducted at home and then returned to a physician.

3.    Flexible sigmoidoscopy
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure that uses an instrument called a sigmoidoscope to check parts of the colon and the interior walls of the rectum for polyps.

While incidences of colorectal cancer have decreased in recent years, in 2011, 141,210 men and women were predicted to be diagnosed with the disease, and 49,380 were predicted to die from it. This demonstrates the importance of regular screenings to ensure a healthy life. Regular screenings are recommended for men and women over the age of 50, however your physician can tell you which screening test is best for you and when to get screened based on family history or symptoms.

Colorectal cancer is preventable when tests are utilized correctly, and screenings save thousands of lives every year. For more information regarding colorectal cancer prevention and screening, please call 281-599-5700. Please mention you found this on www.KatyMagazine.com.