March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in the United States. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the US- and it is often preventable! The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 140,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year and there will be about 50,000 deaths attributed to this disease. Yet almost 20 million Americans have not been screened (the current screening rate is 65.1%). The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1:20.
Although it is possible for young people to get colon cancer, 9/10 people diagnosed are > 50 yrs old. A large percentage of colon cancers begin as polyps in the lining of the colon. Risk factors include: a history of polpys, a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel diseases, smoking, and Crohn’s disease. Colonoscopy remains the “gold standard” for colorectal cancer screening, although there are blood tests and lower GI series that can also aid in the diagnosis. Early stage colorectal cancers can have as high as a 95% cure rate. Screening guidelines recommend starting regular screening at age 50 (unless there are risk factors that indicate earlier) and continuing until age 75. Signs and symptoms include: rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits that last longer than a few days, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and unintended weight loss. Treatments depend on the size and location of the tumors. Early stage disease can often be treated with surgical removal only. Late stage disease can include surgery, chemotherapy and at times, radiation.
For this segment, we have asked a local expert, Dr. Marc Sonenshine from Atlanta Gastroenterology Specialists to return during this month focused on screening to provide us with both basic information and updates on Colorectal Cancer. Listeners can find more information at www.atlantagastro.com.
Dr. Marc Sonenshine
- Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology
- MD from Medical College of GA; Residency completed at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Gastroenterology fellowship at Emory University
- MBA from Terry College of Business at University of GA
- Volunteers with Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America Camp Oasis for kids with IBD
- Special interest areas: inflammatory bowel disease, prevention of GI malignancy and management of chronic liver disease