Please forgive the poor pun in the headline. Colorectal cancer is certainly no joke. It is actually the third most common cancer and one of the leading causes of death in men and women across the United States. This makes National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month a critical campaign in March, aimed to reach everyone over the age of 50, as well as people over age 30, who have specific risk factors.
I have personal experience with this dreadful disease, as both of my maternal grandparents had colon cancer to varying degrees. Neither of them died of colorectal cancer, but they both had surgeries as a result. Knowing that the hereditary factor puts me at a greater risk for developing colon cancer, I undergo a routine colonoscopy every five years, as directed by my physician.
So, here are the bottom-line facts about colorectal cancer and seniors, and the reasons surrounding the importance of scheduling regular colorectal cancer screenings.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
The Florida Department of Health defines colorectal cancer as a disease in the large intestine, or colon, and the rectum, which is the connective passage to the anus. Colorectal cancer occurs when polyps appear in these areas and go untreated. Polyps can take years to grow, which is one reason they are most readily found in people over the age of 50. However, colorectal cancer does not discriminate. Young people can also be diagnosed with the disease.
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for colorectal cancer include
- Personal or family history of the disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory syndromes of the bowels
- Poor nutrition and diets high in fat and low in fiber
- Radiation therapy for cancer
- Sedentary lifestyle
Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Sometimes there are no symptoms preceding the onset of polyps and the progression of colon cancer. However, sometimes there are distinct symptoms you may recognize that could be indicative of the disease, including:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Change in the consistency of stool for a prolonged period of time
- Feeling that the bowel will not quite empty all the way
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Fortunately, the number of deaths has been decreasing over the last few decades, thanks to early detection and treatment. The age group most likely to be diagnosed with, or treated for, colorectal cancer remains adults over the age of 50, and it is recommended that everyone over the age of 50, be screened for colorectal cancer, especially if you have any of the risk factors listed above.
An out-patient, surgical colonoscopy is the standard method of screening for polyps, which can lead to colon cancer. In some cases, a radiological colonography may be recommended instead.
Early detection is the key to preventing, treating and surviving colorectal cancer. The preparation and surgical processes may not be pretty or fun, but they are necessary.
“We make the mistake of bypassing the detection screenings in the elderly,” Dr Samuel Whiting, of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the University of Washington Medical Center explains. “Yet there is not necessarily an appropriate time to stop screening for colon cancer. In fact, the odds are just as good for someone over seventy to survive this disease as it is for someone half that age.”
If you or a senior loved one is coping with colorectal cancer, or you are at risk for developing this deadly disease, Home Helpers® employs talented, compassionate caregivers who can provide 24-hour in-home care; personal care; transportation assistance to and from doctor appointments and medical procedures (like a colonoscopy); recuperative care following surgeries, illnesses and rehab; wellness calls and so much more. I am happy to offer a FREE CONSULTATION to discuss specific needs and outline all the ways we can help.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for the fifth consecutive year: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 & 2021. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠ 727.942.2539
Florida Department of Health