Every year, National Colorectal (colon) Cancer Awareness Month is observed during the month of March in an effort to raise awareness of the importance for colon cancer screenings. The recognition offers health care providers the opportunity to educate the general public about a disease that can be preventable, but can sometimes be seen as difficult for patients to discuss with their doctors. In the spirit of education, one of Augusta University’s experts has provided some insight into the subject of colon cancer.
Dr. Asha Nayak-Kapoor is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. Nayak is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Hematology and Oncology Specialties.
Nayak is currently a member of several committees, including Onyx and Bayer Speaker Bureau for Nexavar, MCG Cancer Center Molecular Oncology Program, and MCG Cancer Center Gastrointestinal Tumor Board Committee.
Abstracts that Nayak has participated: Incidence of Red Cell auto-antibodies in Hepatitis C Patients; An Unusual Case of Large Cell Lymphoma in Patients with AIDS; and Role of Radiochemotherapy in Advanced Biliary Cancers. Publications for Nayak include: Hepatic Failure caused by Plasma Cell Infiltration in Multiple Myeloma, and Plasmablastic Lymphoma with Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma: Clinicopathologic Features, and Review of the Literature.
What are the primary risk factors for colon cancer?
“Risk factors for colon cancer include: being overweight or obese, not being physically active, certain types of diets, smoking, alcohol use, being older, a personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps, having an inherited syndrome.
Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include: bloody stool or rectal bleeding, an ongoing change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, change in stool consistency), abdominal pain or cramping, gas or persistent abdominal discomfort, you feel like your bowels are not voiding completely, weakness, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss.”
How can a person protect themselves from the risks of colon cancer?
“Colon cancer is largely preventable if patients undergo screening tests, like a surveillance colonoscopy starting at 45 years or earlier depending on family history.
Many lifestyle-related factors have been linked to colorectal cancer. In fact, the links between diet, weight, and exercise and colorectal cancer risk are some of the strongest for any type of cancer. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight may help lower your risk. A diet that’s high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (like hot dogs and some luncheon meats) raises your colorectal cancer risk.
Cooking meats at very high temperatures (frying, broiling, or grilling) creates chemicals that might raise your cancer risk. It’s not clear how much this might increase your colorectal cancer risk. Stop smoking. It is best not to drink alcohol.
People with a history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) are at increased risk. The risk is even higher if that relative was diagnosed with cancer when they were younger than 50, or if more than one first-degree relative is affected.”
It sometimes seems that colon cancer prevention is aimed more toward men compared to women, but cancer.org lists the risks at 1 in 23 (4.3%) for men and 1 in 25 (4.0%) for women. Is there a reason why perhaps a stigma about colon cancer affecting men more has been created?
“According to focus group studies, it can be seen as a taboo topic that is uncomfortable to discuss, and it is not discussed as openly in public as prostate and breast cancer screenings. It can seem embarrassing or humiliating, and can be seen as distasteful dealing with prolonged bowel preparation.”