Fight colorectal cancer: Get screened
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Colorectal cancer doesn’t play favorites. It can affect anyone, often without warning. It is America’s second-leading cause of death from cancer.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Here are some ways you can keep watch.
- If you’re 50 or older, get screened regularly. This age group has the highest risk.
- If you’re African-American or have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you are at a higher risk. You may need to be screened earlier than age 50 and have more frequent screens.
- Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. Smokers also are at a higher risk.
- Be active and eat right. Exercise and a healthy diet may help reduce the risk.
- Though there often are no warning signs for colorectal cancer, these conditions may merit a conversation with a doctor about the possibility: persistent abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea), blood in the stool or unexplained weight loss.
Why is screening so important? If everyone 50 and older was screened regularly, six of every 10 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented. Colorectal cancer is treatable if it’s found early.
Your screening options begin with a colonoscopy, which uses a small, flexible camera to examine the inside of the large intestine.
“The nice thing is that if we see those precancerous polyps on a colonoscopy, we can remove those polyps and hopefully prevent cancer from forming,” says Dr. Erik Johnson, a colorectal surgeon with Aurora BayCare General & Vascular Surgery.
X-rays and tests for blood in the stool are less invasive ways to look for colorectal cancer, but a colonoscopy is the most effective procedure because it detects precancerous conditions. If a colonoscopy shows nothing, most people needn’t have another for 10 years.
“A colonoscopy is the gold standard for finding cancer,” Johnson says.
To schedule yours, call 877-677-5384 or request an appointment online.
Erik Johnson, MD, FACS, is Board Certified in general surgery and in colon and rectal surgery, and practices at Aurora BayCare Medical Center. Dr. Johnson received his education at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and completed two fellowships, one at Ferguson Clinic in colorectal and one at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in oncology. Learn more here.