Silver Cross Offers Keys to Early Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Detection
Gastroenterologist offers free program and home screening kits on Nov. 14.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States today and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. Oftentimes colorectal cancer can be detected and prevented if simple steps are followed.
“A majority of colorectal cancer cases can be cured when found and treated at an early stage, so regular screenings are important,” said Dr. Nikhil Bhargava, board certified gastroenterologist on staff at Silver Cross Hospital.
Researchers are learning more about what causes colon cancer and how it grows and progresses, however, no one knows the exact cause of colon cancer, but we do know some of the risk factors.
Research indicates that a high-fat diet, lack of fiber, inactivity, obesity, environmental exposure to carcinogens and genetic predisposition are factors. To help protect yourself, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, exercise regularly and get screened before you experience symptoms.
Chances of developing colon cancer are higher if you have any of the following:
- A history of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or precancerous changes in the lining of the colon.
- A history of large polyps (growths in the colon). A first-degree relative—mother, father, sister, or brother—who had colon cancer before 65 years of age.
- Age also plays a role. Colon cancer risk is noted at age 50. Most cases occur in people over 65 years of age. Fewer than 2 percent of cases occur in those individuals under 40 years of age.
Screening Should Start Before Symptoms
You may not know you have colorectal cancer because there are no warning signs in the early stages of the disease. The concept of screening is being tested when a person is feeling fine and has no symptoms or problems. The best way to know if you have colorectal cancer—before you have symptoms—is to be screened for the disease.
Anyone can be stricken with colorectal cancer. Men and women over age 50 have the greatest risk. “You should have screenings earlier and more frequently if you have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps, or have a personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease,” says Dr. Bhargava.
However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:
- any change in the usual pattern or frequency of bowel habits
- diarrhea, constipation, or a feeling that your bowels have not emptied completely
- blood in the stool that is either bright-red or very dark
- stools that are narrower than usual
- frequent gas pains, cramping, or bloating.
“Other conditions may be responsible for these symptoms, so it is wise to visit your doctor and let him or her determine the cause and appropriate treatment. But always keep in mind, early stages of colon cancer may not show any symptoms,” says Dr. Bhargava.
The majority of colon cancer cases begin as small, non-cancerous growths—called polyps—that can become cancerous over time. Polyps may appear in either the colon or the rectum, both of which are part of the large intestine. Fortunately, up to 90 percent of colon and rectal cancers can be prevented just by finding and removing polyps before they become a cancer.
For a referral to a physician who performs colonoscopies and endoscopic surgery, click here or call the Silver Cross Physician Referral Service at 1-888-660-HEAL (4325). For patients needing a colonoscopy, Silver Cross Hospital has 4 state-of-the-art endoscopic suites, private pre and post recovery rooms and a beautiful family waiting lounge.
Join Dr. Nikhil Bhargava, gastroenterologist, for a lecture on Take Charge: Control Your Colon on Wednesday, November 14 at 6:30 p.m. He will discuss colon cancer risk factors, the latest treatment options, and the importance of screening. Free colon cancer home screening kits will be available for participants. This free program will occur in the Silver Cross Hospital Conference Center Room 1AB located in Pavilion A at 1890 Silver Cross Blvd., New Lenox. Register to attend online or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).