90% of diagnoses of colorectal cancer (CRC) are in people greater than 50 years of age. CRC is 35-40% more common in men than in women and 20% higher among African Americans that Caucasians. Most CRC begin as non-cancerous lesions also known as polyps; in the innermost layer of colon or rectum. Polyps are concerning because they can become cancerous. The invasiveness of CRC lies in the fact that CRC tumors tend to traverse all layers of the colorectal tissues. If a tumor reaches nearby blood and lymph, then metastasis or spreading of the cancer has occurred. CATCHING CRC EARLY IS IMPORTANT. Here are Warning Signs to look out for:
- Changes in bowel movements or the stool itself
- Constant urge to empty bowels
- Blood in stool/rectum
- Diarrhea alternating with constipation
- Abdominal pain
- Unintentional Weight loss (UWL)
- Night sweats
Risk Factors for CRC can be classified as Modifiable (things that you can change) and Non-modifiable (things that cannot be changed).
Modifiable Risk Factors include: Obesity/overweight, Diet high in red meats an processed foods, Smoking (especially over 35 years duration) and increased alcohol intake.
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors include: Family History – A first degree relative with CRC means an 18% chance of having CRC. Only 20% of colon cancers are associated with a family history. Most CRCs occur spontaneously.
Screening for CRC can include a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) and/or a colonoscopy as the Gold Standard of diagnosing colon cancer. Men and women with no family history of CRC should be screened every 2 years with a fecal occult blood test (FOBT). People with a first degree relative with CRC are at a higher risk and may be referred for a FIT test for screening well before the first degree relative was diagnosed with CRC as long as the patient is over 40 years of age. Colonoscopy is recommended at 50 years of age, or 10 years earlier than the age at which their relative was diagnosed – whichever happens first. Tumor marker carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is not diagnostic for CRC, but it is a good marker to track cancer burden and treatment progression in an individual already diagnosed with CRC. Contact the Naturopathic Doctors at the Nardella Clinic in Calgary to schedule your screening.