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Ask St. Joseph’s Clinic: Don’t ignore colorectal cancer screenings

Dr. Robbert S. Riddick

Each day, it seems we are inundated with multi-colored awareness ribbons and fundraising events highlighting the many forms of cancer being battled in healthcare today. One type of cancer that is not always in the spotlight — but that has a huge impact on the American population — is colorectal cancer.

Screening for colorectal cancer is extremely important as an adult ages. In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third-most common cancer, and is the second-most common cause of cancer death. There are approximately 140,000 new cases per year in this country and 55,000 deaths per year. On average a person’s lifetime risk is about 5 percent.

Risk factors for developing colorectal cancer are being age 50 older, having a family history of many polyps or colorectal cancer, and having a personal history of colorectal polyps, radiation therapy, inflammatory bowel disease or diet high in fat and alcohol. Importantly, 75 percent of newly diagnosed cases have no risk factors.

Generally speaking, all individuals should begin screening at 50 years of age and, for some individuals, even earlier. This usually involves an annual stool check for blood and endoscopy every five to 10 years. Some individuals may require more frequent endoscopies, as often as every year.

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Hence, it is important to ask your doctor about your particular case.

Individuals should inform their physician if they have a change in stool color or stool caliber, weight loss, chronic abdominal pain, anemia, constipation, bloating and weakness. These are common symptoms and signs associated with colorectal cancer, and may warrant further investigation.

What can one do now to protect themselves from colorectal cancer?

To help lower your risk, exercise regularly, be disciplined with a high-fiber diet, use alcohol in moderation, watch your fat intake and stop smoking. Importantly, enroll in a life-long screening and wellness program with your doctor.

It may be lifesaving.

Dr. Riddick is certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He practices at St. Joseph’s Surgical Care Clinic, which is located in the lower level of St. Joseph’s Hospital (North Side, Door P). For an appointment, call 701-456-4740.