Charleston, SC — Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers, but it’s also one of the most preventable. As with all diseases, and especially cancer, the cost of care and lost productivity are significant to patients, their families and employers.
According to the National Cancer Institute the cost of colorectal cancer is more than $16 billion a year. Closing the gap between a cancer diagnosis and prevention is the goal of researchers worldwide, especially in March during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Gastroenterologist Robbie Taha, DO, with Coastal Carolina Gastroenterology and Hepatology encourages people to know their risks for colorectal cancer.
“Both men and women are equally at risk for colon cancer. The cancer is most common among people aged 50 and older, but can occur in patients as young as teenagers,” said Dr. Taha. “More than 75% of colon and rectal cancers happen to people with no known risk factors, which is why regular screening is so important.”
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends adults age 50 – 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. African-Americans are recommended to start screenings at age 45. However, a physician may recommend earlier screening if an individual:
- Has or has a close relative who’s had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
- Has an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- Has a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch Syndrome).
Colorectal cancer risk factors are divided into two categories – those that an individual can change and those that can’t be changed such as age, a personal history of colorectal polyps, or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.
“Risk factors that individuals have control over include smoking, heavy alcohol use, physical activity and being overweight or obese,” explained Dr. Taha. He adds, “It’s very important to have a primary care physician who can monitor and manage a person’s health over a long period of time. The primary care physician is invaluable in helping detect potential health problems early.”