The majority of New Jersey isn’t getting screened for colon cancer, despite the fact that colon cancer is the third most-common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. Since colon cancer is 90 percent preventable if caught early, getting screened is the best preventive action.
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With one in every 20 people being diagnosed with colon cancer, Stop Colon Cancer North Jersey wants to understand why only one in three people in New Jersey choose to be screened for colon cancer. Please take three minutes to fill out our Why Haven’t You Been Screened for Colon Cancer Survey. Your input could help us increase colon cancer screening rates in New Jersey.
Colon cancer forms in the tissues of the colon, which is the largest part of the intestine. Most colon cancers begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids to aid in digestion and the elimination of waste products.
Though scientists are unsure of the exact causes of colon and colorectal cancer, some risk factors have been identified, including being over age 50, presence of polyps, a high-fat diet, family or personal history of colon cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases, a sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, smoking and alcohol, growth hormone disorder and radiation therapy for cancer.
Screenings, such as flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy, can help detect cancer or other ailments in the early stages, before symptoms appear. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread.
If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
Many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms or warning signs until the cancer has advanced. That being said, the following symptoms may indicate colon cancer:
• Changes in bowel habits
• Blood (either bright red or very dark) in stool
• Abdominal pain
• Unexplained weight loss
• Bloating, fullness or cramps
Most often, these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems can cause the same symptoms. Anyone with these symptoms should see a doctor to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
In the United States, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men, after skin, prostate and lung cancer. It is also the fourth most common cancer in women, after skin, breast and lung cancer.
Getting screened is the first step in preventing colon cancer. Screening should begin at age 50 for people without any risk factors for developing colon cancer. Recent studies suggest that African-Americans may want to start screening at age 45. There are also certain lifestyle changes that can be made to prevent colon cancer such as leading an active lifestyle and eating a diet high in fiber and fruits and vegetables.
Several screening options are available, including colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy. More frequent and earlier screening is recommended if you are at a high risk for colon cancer. Remember that these procedures not only detect cancer, but can prevent it, by removing any tissue that could potentially become cancer, in the same procedure.
Treatment options for colon cancer depend on the following:
• The stage of colon cancer
• Whether the cancer has recurred
• The patient’s general health
The three primary treatment options available for colon cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The surgical option, a partial colectomy, is the main treatment and includes removing the affected portion of the colon. How much of the colon is removed and whether it is done in conjunction with other treatments will depend on the location of the cancer, how deep it has penetrated the wall of the bowel and if it has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Chemotherapy can be used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells, and may be recommended by the doctor if the cancer has spread beyond the colon. Chemotherapy can be used in conjunction with radiation. Radiation therapy uses powerful energy sources to kill any cancer cells that may remain after surgery or to shrink large tumors before an operation. This option is rarely used in early stages of colon cancer.