(Breese, IL) – In recognition of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, HSHS Medical Group & HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Breese want to remind you that of the cancers affecting both, men and women, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. In addition to an estimated 101,420 new cases of colon cancer in 2019, it is expected to cause about 51,020 deaths.
Illinois has among the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the United States—a range of 42.3 to 48.4 per 100,000 individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1. The statistics can be sobering, but they don’t have to be—a screening is fast (about 30 minutes), has minimal discomfort, and can save your life.
Fortunately, a colonoscopy is available, and is considered the gold standard of colorectal cancer screening methods for its ability to view the entire colon and both detect and remove polyps during the same procedure2. During a colonoscopy, the doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube (called a colonoscope, or scope) to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. A colonoscopy also is used as a follow-up test if anything unusual is found during other screening tests3. Most people will not feel pain during a colonoscopy, though some may experience a bit of discomfort. Medication will be given to you to make you sleep through a colonoscopy, so you don’t feel anything4 during the procedure.
Know the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
There are multiple risk factors for colorectal cancer. Some are unavoidable, such as family history, so if you have a close relative with colon cancer (such as a parent or sibling), this would definitely increase your risk for colon cancer. If you have more relatives with colon cancer, this risk will become higher.
In addition to family history, there are some genetic factors that can be identified. Some inherited conditions require patients to have specific surveillance or follow-up testing that is different from the general population. Another risk factor is ethnicity. African Americans have a higher risk and higher incidences of colorectal cancer.
Lifestyle risk factors that can be avoided include smoking, obesity and diabetes. Doctors recommend regular physical activity can help protect against disease, as can eating healthy and nutritious foods, avoiding high fat in the diet, as well as avoiding excess alcohol and red meat. Living a good, healthy lifestyle will help protect against colon cancer.
Recognize Potential Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don't always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer.
Doctors advise patients to look for these symptoms: signs of gastrointestinal bleeding, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or anemia—often indicated by fatigue, lack of energy or trouble breathing at which time we will check the blood count to determine if they might be anemic and losing blood. Sometimes the bleeding can be microscopic and not visible to the eye. Less common symptoms include abdominal distension, nausea, and vomiting. The patient should be on the lookout for these symptoms, especially if they have not had a colorectal cancer screening by the age of 45 or 50.
For more information about getting a colonoscopy, call your primary care provider. If you don’t have a primary care provider, call (618) 526-7271 or search on hshsmd.org to find a provider in your area.
1CDC—Colorectal Cancer Rates by State—https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics/state.htm
2American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy—https://www.asge.org/home/about-asge/newsroom/media-backgrounders-detail/colorectal-cancer-screening
3CDC—Colorectal Cancer Screening—https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/pdf/basic_fs_eng_color.pdf
4American Cancer Society—FAQs about Colonoscopy-https://www.cancer.org/treatment/understanding-your-diagnosis/tests/faq-colonoscopy-andsigmoidoscopy.html
About HSHS Medical Group
HSHS Medical Group is the physician organization of Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS). Launched in 2009, HSHS Medical Group is a critical component of the HSHS Care Integration strategy, which focuses on bringing physicians, technology and patients together to improve the overall health of our communities. Today, HSHS Medical Group is comprised of over 1,000 colleagues in locations throughout central and southern Illinois. HSHS Medical Group is powered by the Franciscan history of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, and our faith-based identity led us to the single most important tenet of the HSHS Medical Group philosophy — Patient-First Care. For more information about HSHS Medical Group, visit www.hshsmedicalgroup.org.