Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Preventive Screening Can Save Lives
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Piyush Sheth, MD, general surgeon at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, spoke with WMFD host Chelley Kemper on Focus on North Central Ohio to raise awareness and education on colorectal cancer because of its prevention through early screening.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women, and Dr. Sheth said symptoms are not usually present. This type of cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented through screening. When symptoms arise, patients may be at a higher stage of disease and treatment becomes more difficult.
“If you look at statistics in the year 2023, it's estimated that approximately 150,000 patients will be newly diagnosed with colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Sheth. “Out of those, about 50,000 patients will die related to colorectal cancer. It’s really important to do screenings in order to find colorectal cancers before they get very severe.”
The recommended screening age is 45 years old; however, earlier screening may be recommended due to the risk factors for developing colorectal cancer. If family history of colorectal cancer is known, screening is recommended 10 years earlier than the family member’s age of diagnosis.
A polyp in the colon, is the natural progression of normal tissues. Polyps can develop into cells that can turn cancerous. Screenings may be noninvasive, like a blood fecal test and Cologuard, and colonoscopies are an invasive screening. Colonoscopies allow the doctor to find and remove polyps that form inside the colon, so they do not progress to cancer.
Screening options include:
· Stool test. The most dated and least accurate option. The test checks for blood in the stool.
· Cologuard. Tests DNA patterns in the stool. It can have false positives and prompt a colonoscopy for confirmation.
· Colonoscopy. The most complete and accurate screening. High risk patients should have colonoscopies. This exam can reveal problem areas and identify changes in the colon earlier than ever before. Enhanced imaging technology, new tools, and effective medications now make it possible to remove polyps that were once impossible to remove.
Dr. Sheth added that the risk factors for colorectal cancer include smoking, obesity, diabetes, and a low fiber diet that’s high in meat. Lifestyle changes can help prevent small polyp development. He recommended adding fiber to your diet, since fiber can prevent diverticulosis development, polyps and colorectal cancers. Dr. Sheth said, “Eating healthy, exercising and quitting some of the risks, such as smoking, are some of the best ways to do something today to minimize your risk for colorectal cancer,” he said.
He emphasized the need for prep to his patients. “A little bit of pain with the prep goes a long way in terms of maintaining your health. I tell my patients really push through that prep. A good prep allows the surgeon or the gastroenterologist to find those small polyps,” he added.
He encouraged patients to not be afraid to ask questions – no matter how embarrassing or personal they may seem. “His last piece of advice was: “Don’t be afraid to have that conversation.”
To schedule a screening or to earn more about colorectal cancer care at OhioHealth, click here.