March Is National Colorectal Cancer Month

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Dr. Rao
Colon cancer is the type that forms in the tissues of the colon (the longest part of the large intestine).  Rectal cancer forms in the tissues of the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine closest to the anus).

In 2009 it is estimated that there were 106,100 new cases of colon cancer and 40,870 new cases of rectal cancer.  The two combined led to almost 50,000 deaths last year.

According to Dr. Rao, the Gastroenterologist at Stones River Hospital, it is the fourth most common cancer in adults. But he adds that this cancer is almost completely preventable with appropriate screening.

Dr. Rao, who specializes in treating the Digestive System, sees patients at the Specialty Clinic at the hospital. One of the many things that he does is screen people for Colorectal Cancer.

Screening tests, like those performed by Dr. Rao, help your doctor find polyps or cancer before you may have symptoms. Finding and removing polyps may prevent colorectal cancer. Polyps are growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. They are common in people over age 50.  Most are benign (not cancer) but some can become cancer.  Finding and removing polyps may reduce the risk for colon cancer.

To find polyps or early colorectal cancer people in their 50's and older should be screened.  People who are at higher-than-average risk should talk to their doctor about whether to have screening tests before age 50.

With a colonoscopy screening, your doctor examines inside the rectum and entire colon using a long, lighted tube called a colonoscope. Your doctor removes polyps that may be found.  Any abnormal tissue may be biopsied and a pathologist checks the tissue for cancer cells using a microscope. 

The choice of treatment of colorectal cancer depends mainly on the location of the tumor in the colon or rectum and the stage of the disease.  Treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, or radiation therapy.  Some people have a combination of treatments.

Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop colorectal cancer.  Studies have shown the following risk factors for colorectal cancer:

Age over 50:  It is more likely to occur as people get older.  More than 90% of people with this disease are diagnosed after age 50.  The average age of diagnosis is 72.
Family history of colorectal cancer:  Close relatives of a person with a history of colorectal cancer are more likely to develop this disease, especially if the relative had the cancer at a young age.  If many close relatives have a history of colon cancer the risk is even greater.

Genetic alterations:  Changes in certain genes increase the risk.
Personal history of cancer:  A person who has already had colorectal cancer may develop it a second time.  Also, women with a history of cancer of the ovary, uterus, or breast are at a higher risk.

Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease:  A person who has had a condition that causes inflammation of the colon for many years is at an increased risk.

Diet:  Studies suggest that diets high in fat (especially animal fat) and low in calcium, folate, and fiber may increase the risk.  Also, some studies suggest that people who eat a diet low in fruits and vegetables may have a higher risk.
Cigarette smoking

Please talk to your doctor about your risk factors. For more information on how to schedule a colonoscopy screening with Dr. Rao please call the Specialty Clinic of Stones River Hospital. The phone number is 615 563-7216.
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