Early Detection is Key to Surviving Colorectal Cancer

By: Ally Gravina

March 14, 2022

Couple looking out into nature from boat

Colorectal cancer is the number two cancer killer in Nevada, only second to lung cancer, yet it is also one of the most preventable. Still, in 2020, 20.7% of Nevadans said they had never been screened for this deadly disease, according to the Nevada Cancer Coalition.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately many healthcare services were halted, including colorectal cancer screenings. Those delays in screenings can lead to delays in diagnoses of colorectal cancer, resulting in poorer outcomes. Per the American Cancer Society, if colorectal cancer can be found early the relative 5-year survival rate is approximately 90%. Screening is key, and it is important to engage in preventative care.

Even if you have no personal or family history of colorectal cancer, ask your doctor about colorectal risk factors and when to start screening, and if you’re up to date on your screenings, talk to loved ones and make sure they are too. According to the American Cancer Society, most colorectal cancer cases are found in those without a family history.

This month let us help raise awareness for colorectal cancer and the importance of routine, life-saving screenings. To learn more, we spoke to Renown Health oncology nurse Christina Alsop, APRN.

What is Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a disease in which the cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. It usually forms from precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths, in the colon or rectum, which can become malignant without presenting any symptoms.

How do Screenings Work

Screening tests like stool tests, colonoscopies and others can detect these precancerous polyps, so they can be removed by a physician before turning into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, resulting in better treatment outcomes.

As of 2021, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends adults begin colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 45, through 75. Screening methods include a blood stool test, which needs to take place every year or a colonoscopy, which takes place every 5-10 years.

Healthy Habits Can Help Stave Off Risk

Routine screenings are the only way to determine colorectal health, yet some healthy habits may reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. These factors include maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, limiting alcohol intake and not smoking.

Non-Controllable Risk Factors

Colorectal cancer is more common in patients who have already been diagnosed with polyps, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or long-term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer is also higher in people with a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps.

What is Lynch Syndrome and How is it Related to Colorectal Cancer

One in 500 Americans will test positive for Lynch Syndrome – also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer – a genetic condition that raises your risk of colon cancer, endometrial cancer and other cancers. People with Lynch Syndrome are also more susceptible to colon polyps at a younger age. All Nevada residents can complete a no-cost genetic study called the Healthy Nevada Project, which includes testing for Lynch Syndrome.