Facts and figures on detection, diagnosis, treatment, and preventing colorectal cancer

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
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Since March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it's a good time to brush up on some facts surrounding the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.

Source: American Cancer Society

What percentage of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over 50?

The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age; 91% of cases are diagnosed in individuals 50 years of age and older. While rates of colon cancer have been declining among adults 50 years and older, the incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing among adults under age 50.

Source: Colon Cancer Coalition

Colorectal cancer survival by stage.

Cancer stage at diagnosis, which refers to the extent of cancer in the body, determines treatment options and has a strong influence on the length of survival. In general, if the cancer is found only in the part of the body where it started, it is localized (sometimes referred to as stage 1). If it has spread to a different part of the body, the stage is regional or distant. The earlier colorectal cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. For colorectal cancer, 39% are diagnosed at the local stage. The 5-year survival for localized colorectal cancer is 89.8%.

Source: National Cancer Institute

Do all colorectal cancer patients need ostomy surgery?

Most patients with colorectal cancer have surgery where a section of the colon is removed and then the two ends are put back together so there is no need for an ostomy. Certain circumstances may require an ostomy: if the tumor is close to the anal opening, if radiation has been used as part of the treatment, if there is associated infection, or if the patient is generally poor health at the time of surgery.

Source: Dr. Bartley Pickron, University of Utah Health Care.

Can colorectal cancer be prevented?

YES! Polyp-related colorectal cancer can be prevented. The disease develops from benign polyps (mushroom-like growths on the lining of the colon and rectum). Removing these polyps before they become cancerous may prevent cancer from developing. A low-fat diet, high in vegetable and fruit intake, and regular exercise can also lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Source: The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

The importance of getting screened cannot be overstated.

Overall, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened for colorectal cancer routinely, beginning at age 50.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What's new in colorectal cancer detection?

Capsule colonoscopy is a technique where the patient swallows a double-ended capsule containing a tiny wireless video device that views the colon during the device’s transit. The procedure requires no sedation and does require a bowel preparation preceding the capsule’s ingestion. It helps your doctor find polyps. Colonic capsule endoscopy does not allow for biopsy or polyp removal, so patients with lesions detected typically require subsequent colonoscopy for evaluation and/or treatment. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved capsule colonoscopy only for patients who had an incomplete colonoscopy.

Source: WebMD 

Make the right choices for your health.

Lower your risk for colorectal cancer by maintaining a diet high in plant foods and low in red meats, do 30-60 minutes of physical activity per day, learn your family health history, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes.

Source: Colorectal Cancer Alliance