March 2, 2010 -
March is National 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. Charles Bundy, MD, FACS, board-certified general surgeon on medical staff at Olympic Medical Center, has some advice on this potentially life-threatening disease:
"Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women combined, with an estimated 50,000 people expected to die from this disease each year," Dr. Bundy explains. "However, it is a preventable and very curable disease if caught early."
Because there are often no symptoms when it is first developing, colorectal cancer can only be caught early through regular screening. "The benefits of early detection and treatment are dramatic," says Dr. Bundy. "The possibility of curing patients after symptoms develop is only 50 percent, but if colorectal cancer is found and treated at an early stage before symptoms develop, the opportunity to cure it is 80 percent or better."
"Most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps. If we are able to find these polyps while they are still non-cancerous, we remove them and the cancer may be prevented. Major surgery can usually be avoided as well," adds Dr. Bundy.
The American Cancer Society recommends men and women age 50 and older at average risk for colorectal cancer should use one of the screening tests below. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you. A colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” of colorectal cancer screenings by many physicians, including Dr. Bundy.
Tests that find polyps and cancer:
Colonoscopy every 10 years
Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
Double contrast barium enema every five years
CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years
Tests that mainly find cancer:
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year
Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
Stool DNA test (sDNA), interval uncertain
People at increased risk for colorectal cancer, including those with a personal or family history of a related disease or condition, should talk to their doctor about being screened earlier and/or more often.
Dr. Bundy notes that in addition to regular screenings for colorectal cancer, people can lower their risk of getting the disease by:
Avoiding foods that are high in fat
Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and other high-fiber foods
Exercising regularly and maintaining a normal body weight
Not smoking and drinking alcohol only in moderation
For more information on colorectal cancer screening, prevention and treatment, contact your primary care provider or call (888) DOC-6260 or click here to find a local physician.
Charles Bundy, MD, is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Member of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
Olympic Medical Center (Clallam County Public Hospital District No. 2) is a comprehensive, award-winning health care provider for more than 70,000 residents of Clallam County. It has served the community since its establishment on Nov. 1, 1951, and is governed by a seven-member, publicly elected board. OMC is a sole community hospital and rural referral center. It provides inpatient services at its 80-bed acute-care facility in Port Angeles, including a level-three trauma designated emergency department, surgical services, and labor and delivery. OMC’s outpatient services include cardiac, imaging, physical therapy and rehabilitation, laboratory, sleep medicine, surgical services, home health, physician clinics and comprehensive regional cancer care at locations in Port Angeles and Sequim.