March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Screening and Early Detection is Key to Effective Treatment

South Hill, VA (3/15/21) - March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and a good time to learn more about colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) and how it can be prevented or best treated.

"Cancer in the colon and rectum is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. This cancer can be prevented with early screening tests, such as a colonoscopy," explained general surgeon Desiderio J. Rimon, MD.

How can I lower my risk?

To lower your risk of colorectal cancer, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and the American Cancer Society recommend that you:

-Get regular colorectal cancer screenings after age 45. Between 80-90% of colorectal cancer patients are restored to normal health if their cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages. However, most insurance companies only cover colonoscopies at age 50 and older. Check with your insurance company first to be sure.

-Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet and maintain a healthy body weight.

-If you use alcohol, drink only in moderation. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don't use tobacco, don't start. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers.

-Exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week. Moderate exercise such as walking, gardening or climbing steps may help.

Can colorectal cancer be cured?

Since there are very few symptoms associated with colorectal cancer, regular screening is essential. Screening is beneficial for two main reasons: colorectal cancer is preventable if polyps that lead to the cancer are detected and removed, and it is curable if the cancer is detected in its early stages.

In addition, studies have shown that patients treated by colorectal surgeons -- experts in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of colon and rectal problems -- are more likely to survive colorectal cancer and experience fewer complications. This is attributed to colorectal surgeons' advanced training and the high volume of colon and rectal disease surgeries they perform.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. All men and women aged 45 and older are at risk for developing colorectal cancer, and should be screened. Some people are at a higher risk and should be screened at an age younger than 45, including those with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease; colorectal cancer or polyps; or ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer.

Current screening methods include fecal occult blood testing (a simple chemical test that can detect hidden blood in the stool), flexible sigmoidoscopy (a visual examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon, performed in a doctor's office), double contrast barium enema (barium x-ray), colonoscopy (a visual examination of the entire colon) and digital rectal exam. Colorectal cancer screening costs are covered by Medicare and many commercial health plans. You should find out from your healthcare provider which screening procedure is right for you and how often you should be screened.

“At VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, our general surgeons are here to provide this life-saving procedure with compassionate and expert care. Make an appointment with one of our general surgeons today by calling (434) 584-2273. We are here for you,” said Dr. Rimon.