Did you know that Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined in the United States? Sixty eight percent of deaths could be prevented with screening and it’s 90 percent curable if treated during stage one.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. This is an effort to spread the word that CRC is preventable with screening and treatable if caught early.
The USPSTF (US Preventative Services Task Force) recommends screening for colorectal cancer in all adults’ ages 50 to 75 years. Recommendations for starting screening earlier vary but it is generally recommended to start screening at the age of 45 for patients with a higher risk of colon cancer (African Americans or patients with a family history of colon cancer).
According to Maj. Jennifer Chambers, a primary health physician with the Wiesbaden Army Health Clinic, there are screening options available to health clinic patients and include:
Collecting fecal occult blood samples yearly. Patients obtain a small sample of stool at home and brings it back to the lab. Also, there are kits provided by the lab which allows the patient to obtain samples at home and send it back via mail. This is recommended every one to three years.
Every 10 years, a colonoscopy is performed by a Gastroenterology specialist.
Chambers said it is important to note that a Colonoscopy is still the Gold Standard screening test because it allows for direct visualization of areas of concern and biopsies can be completed during the procedure.
If you do not have any symptoms and meet the age criteria, please send a message to your WAHC Primary care provider via tricareonline.com secured messaging portal to request colorectal cancer screening, she said.
Also, Chambers stressed that knowing the symptoms of colorectal cancer and understanding your risks may prevent this cancer from happening to you, or help you catch it as early as possible. Some early stages of colorectal cancer may not show any signs (which is why screening is so important). If you have any signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, do not ignore them.
If you notice blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool (poop), make sure to talk to your doctor. Not all cases of colorectal cancer will include rectal bleeding or blood in the stool; however, it’s a fairly common colorectal cancer symptom and should alert you that something’s not right.
There is no standard normal for bowel habits, but if you experience significant bowel habit changes you should seek medical attention.
Narrow stools can be caused by several things, ranging from harmless, temporary conditions to more serious underlying medical conditions. But if you experience narrow stools for more than a week, seek medical attention from your doctor.
Most people produce about 1 to 4 pints of gas a day and pass gas about 14 times a day. Any obstruction in the colon, including cancer, can hinder your ability to pass gas.
If you experience rapid or unintended weight loss, this may be a sign of cancer. In patients with cancer, weight loss is often a result of cancer cells consuming the body’s energy as they multiply. In addition, your immune system is also spending more energy to fight and destroy cancer cells.
Similar to patients experiencing weight loss for no reason, cancer can also cause you to experience constant weakness and fatigue. Since cancer cells multiply unchecked, the constant, extra energy consumption can cause you to feel very tired despite having normal rest. Chronic fatigue is most likely a sign of an underlying medical condition, even if it is not caused by colorectal cancer. If you experience fatigue that is not alleviated by normal rest or sleep, seek attention from your doctor.
It’s not uncommon for individuals diagnosed in the early stages (stage I or II) to not experience any colorectal cancer symptoms.
Symptoms of early-stage colorectal cancer are not always obvious or visible. Oftentimes it’s only when colorectal cancer has grown into late-stage cancer or spread that symptoms appear.
Chambers said if you have any of the listed symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for further evaluation and testing. You may schedule your appointment via tricareonline.com or calling the central appointment line at 06371-9464-5762 or DSN 590-5762.
Additional information can be found at the following website: https://fightcolorectalcancer.org