Raleigh General shares prevention tips for colorectal cancer

April 12, 2018

In recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Raleigh General Hospital asks local residents to consider — is it time for a colonoscopy? 

The American Cancer Society reports colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women, excluding skin cancers. The vast majority of cases occur in people 50 and older.

The overall incidence of and death rates associated with colorectal cancers have been on the decline for more than a decade, thanks largely to screenings which can detect the disease in its early stages. 

“Colonoscopies are so important because they can improve our ability to detect colorectal cancer quickly and early, making the disease much more easily treatable,” said Angie Withrow, Raleigh General Hospital director of Endo, OP Surgery, Preadmission Testing and Surgical Services. “Colonoscopies can also help us identify and remove colorectal polyps before they even become cancerous. The benefits are enormous.”

Symptoms

Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages — another reason that screenings are so important.

Still, patients are encouraged to see their doctor if they have any of these warning signs: bleeding from the rectum; blood in the stool or in the toilet after a bowel movement; change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool; persistent cramping or discomfort in the lower abdomen; an urge to have a bowel movement when the bowel is empty; constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days; decreased appetite; nausea or vomiting; and unintentional weight loss.

While these symptoms can indicate other health conditions, a doctor can help get to the root of the issue and determine the underlying cause.

Prevention

Colonoscopy screenings are the No. 1 way to reduce risk of colorectal cancer, as screenings can help detect the disease early or find polyps before they become cancerous.

While the vast majority of new cases occur at age 50 and over, the disease does not discriminate and can happen to men and women at any age.

“We recommend that everyone talk to their doctor about their colorectal cancer risks and discuss when a colonoscopy could be right for them,” Withrow said.

Living a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake and eliminating smoking can reduce risk for colorectal and many other forms of cancer.

Knowing your family’s medical history is important — a history of the disease in your immediate family puts you at a higher risk for the disease.

To learn more, call Raleigh General Hospital at 304-256-4100 or visit raleighgeneral.com.