Colon Cancer Awareness

Did you know that the month of March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month? This puts the spotlight on this type cancer and inspires more people to get checked – starting at the approved screening age of 45. Colorectal cancer (or CRC) is the second deadliest cancer in the United States. Well, The Gloria Borges WunderGlo Foundation also wants you to know that every month of the year is ultra important to Living Your Best Gastrointestinal Health Life. On this page, WunderGlo provides you some very important and life-saving information to know regarding colon/colorectal cancer. 

  • What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum, located at the digestive tract’s lower end. Cancer starts when the cells in the body start to grow out of control.

  • How Does Colorectal Cancer Start?

Most colorectal cancers start as a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Early cases can begin as noncancerous polyps which can be detected by screening. However, some types of polyps can change into cancer over time and the chance of this happening depend on the type of polyp. This being said, there are different types of polyps: adenomatous polyps, hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps, and sessile serrated polyps and traditional serrated adenomas. Adenomatous polyps can sometimes change into cancer and is often called a pre-cancerous condition. Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps are more common and in general are not pre-cancerous. Sessile serrated polyps and traditional serrated adenomas have a higher risk of colorectal cancer and are treated like adenomas. 

  • How Colorectal Cancer Spreads 

When cancer forms in a polyp, it can grow into the wall of the colon or rectum over time. Colorectal cancer starts in the innermost layer and can eventually grow outward through utilizing all of the other layers. When cancer cells are in the wall, they can begin to grow into blood vessels of lymph vessels and eventually can travel to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. The stage of colorectal cancer depends on how deeply the cancer has grown into the wall and if it has spread outside of the colon or rectum. 

  • How Common is Colorectal Cancer? 

Did you know colorectal cancer is the third most common diagnosed cancer in both men and women? The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women. There are also other factors that can increase your risk in developing colorectal cancer. 

  • Risk Factors 

Some colorectal cancer risk factors that you can prevent include: managing a healthy weight, physical activity and a balanced and colorful diet. Diets high in red meats and activities such as smoking and alcohol consumption can raise your cancer risks. Some risk factors that you cannot change include your age, a personal history of polyps or colon cancer, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer. Many people believe that they do not have a family history because nobody in their family has actually been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. However, a family history includes the removal of pre-cancerous polyps.  

  • What’s New in Colorectal Cancer Research?

When it comes to colorectal cancer, research is always going to be something that is ongoing. Scientists are actively looking for causes and ways to prevent colorectal cancer. 

While there are still studies in the making to see if certain types of diets, dietary supplements or even medicines can lower a person’s risk of colorectal cancer, there are current studies that advise to stick to a somewhat healthy diet and avoid diets that are high in processed meats to help decrease your risk in colorectal cancer. Did you know the recommended amount of fiber intake per day is 25-30 grams from food (not supplements)? However, many of us are only getting about 15. Some great sources of fiber include: black beans (5.4 grams in 3/4 cup), lima beans (5.3 grams in 3/4 cup), soy nuts (3.5 grams in 1/4 cup), oat bran (2.2 grams in 3/4 cup, cooked), and even oranges (1.8 grams in one medium fruit). 

  • Too Young/Too Cool For Colon Cancer?

Young onset colorectal cancer is on the rise. Studies have shown that a person born in 1990 is 2 times as likely to have colon cancer and 4 times as likely to have rectal cancer compared to someone born in 1950. Although this cancer is decreasing in older populations, it is actually rising in younger populations. It is extremely important to be your own advocate.If something seems off, talk to your doctor and demand a test. 

  • Symptoms

Although the most common symptom is NO symptom, some of the most common symptoms include:

  1. A persistent change in one’s bowel movements, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
  2. Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  3. Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  4. A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  5. Weakness or fatigue
  6. Unexplained weight loss

  • Getting Screened

Screening can find colorectal cancer early if the disease is small and hasn’t spread. A colonoscopy can actually prevent you from a colorectal cancer diagnosis. If polyps are found during your screening, doctors can remove them before a polyp turns into cancer. A colonoscopy is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in your colon and rectum. A polyp can take almost as much as 10-15 years to develop into cancer. Your colon must be clean for this to be done so your doctor will assign you a prep. Here are some tips on how to have a successful prep: 

  1. Stock up on clear liquids such as gatorade, chicken/vegetable broth and popsicles. Nothing red or purple. 
  2. Eat a low fiber diet starting 2-days before your appointment
  3. If you are having a hard time with the taste of your prep, try drinking it through a straw. (Some people like to chase it with a sip of apple juice.) 
  4. Make sure to finish the prep in its entirety. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. Your doctor may not be able to perform a successful colonoscopy if you do not have a successful prep. 

  • Treatment

After you are diagnosed with cancer, you have a minor procedure with interventional radiology to place a port-a-cath, under the skin, which is a device used to draw blood and give treatments. 

When it comes to treatment options, a majority of colorectal cancer patients undergo a chemotherapy combination, with or without radiation, as their first type of therapy whether it is pre-surgery or post-surgery. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in one’s body. When it comes to side effects, everyone’s body can react differently.  

  • After Treatment 

Fortunately, for many people, treatment can remove the cancer. This can be an exciting time as many patients feel a sense of relief to be able to be done with the treatments. However, many patients also have the fear that the cancer may return. This is why it is important to go over a survivorship plan with your doctor. This plan may include a schedule for follow up exams, a list of what to watch for when it comes to long-term side effects from your treatment, and even suggestions of things you can do to improve your health and lower the risk of the cancer coming back. 

  • Conclusion

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths. However, even with this being true research is widely underfunded. It is extremely important for funds to go toward research because it means there would be progress and more lines of treatment for this deadly disease. Some well-funded cancers have 5+ lines of treatment while colon cancer only has 2. For those of you who do not know, as you receive treatment your cancer becomes smarter which could mean your body becoming more tired. Treatments that may have worked in the past can stop working. When this happens, you may have to try a new treatment. The more available treatments there are, the higher the chances are for a cancer patient to live a longer life. What steps can you take to fund for more research? Donations made to The Gloria Borges WunderGlo Foundation are prioritized towards research for “The Cure”!