Colorectal cancer may be the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S., but if detected early, it has a very high survival rate.

With March designated as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Ziad Kronfol, a colorectal surgeon at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital says this is the perfect time to schedule a screening test to detect the disease. He says finding the cancer as early as possible is essential to preventing it from developing into a potentially deadly condition. 

“Through screening tests such as colonoscopy, polyps can be found and removed before they become cancerous,” Kronfol said. “Colorectal cancer generally develops from polyps in the colon or rectum. If a cancer is found during screening, the earlier it is found the greater the chance it can be surgically removed laparoscopically with small incisions.” 

While screening methods are readily available and reliable, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, fewer than half of adults age 50 and older get the recommended screenings.

The American Cancer Society and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend colorectal cancer screening for men and women at average risk beginning at age 45 and continuing until age 75. Continuing beyond this age should be considered on an individual patient basis.

“Your doctor will be able to advise you on the proper screening schedule for you,” Kronfol said. “People at an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer should discuss screening earlier and may require more frequent tests.”

Risk factors

The exact causes of colorectal cancer are unknown. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, certain factors increase your risk of developing the disease. Those factors include:

• Age. Most people who develop colorectal cancer are over age 50.

• Polyps (abnormal growths that protrude from the inner wall of the colon or rectum). While most polyps are noncancerous, the majority of colorectal cancers develop from polyps.

• Personal history of colorectal cancer. Women who have had ovarian, uterine or breast cancer also have a higher risk.

• Family history of colorectal cancer.

• Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

• Diet. Eating a lot of red and processed meats and not many whole grains, fruits and vegetables may increase risk.

• Sedentary lifestyle

• Smoking

For more information and to schedule an appointment with a colorectal cancer specialist at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital, call 832-556-6046.

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