Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States, striking 140,000 people annually and causing 60,000 deaths. But colorectal cancer is a disease that can be prevented through regular screenings, a healthy diet, and regular exercise, explains colorectal surgeon Anand K. Lodha, MD, an independently practicing colon and rectal surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Health System.
Here are some commonly asked questions about colon cancer:
Q: When do I need to start thinking about getting a colonoscopy?
A: Since there are few symptoms associated with colon cancer, regular colonoscopies are essential. You should start getting colorectal cancer screenings after age 50. If you have a parent or sibling that has battled colon cancer, most standards recommend beginning screenings at age 40. Between 80 to 90 percent of colorectal cancer patients are restored to normal health if their cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages.
Q: What are other risk factors for colon cancer? What symptoms should I watch for?
A: Other risk factors include a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, or ovarian, endometrial, or breast cancer. People of African American and Hispanic descent are also at a greater risk of colon cancer. Symptoms may include rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits such as diarrhea or constipation.
Q: How does colon cancer start?
A: It's generally agreed that nearly all colon and rectal cancer begins in benign polyps. These pre-malignant growths occur on the bowel wall and may eventually increase in size and become cancer. That's why it's so important to remove them endoscopically.
Q: How is colorectal cancer treated?
A: Colorectal cancer requires surgery in nearly all cases for a complete cure. Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used in addition to surgery. Newer techniques allow the use of tiny incisions (called laparoscopy) which allow for faster recovery times and less scarring.
Q: Is there anything I can do to prevent colon cancer?
A: Eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet helps to prevent colon cancer. Also if you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers. And, of course, exercise for at least 20 minutes, three to four days a week.
Dr. Anand Lodha is an independently practicing colon and rectal surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Health System, trained in the latest technology in the care of diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus.
Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System. To find a physician on the medical staff at Methodist Health System, call 214-947-0000 to talk to a physician referral specialist.