Colorectal Cancer Is the Second Leading Cause of Cancer-Related Deaths in America: What to Know
In the new issue of PEOPLE, the Jonas Brothers’ father, Kevin Sr., opens up about his colon cancer crisis, how it strengthened his family and the importance of screenings for early detection.
Colorectal cancer — or cancer that starts in the colon or rectum — is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America. According to Fight CRC, a national colorectal cancer advocacy organization that raises awareness about the importance of early detection through screening, about 135,000 colorectcal cancer cases were diagnosed in 2017 and 60 percent of those could have been avoided with screening.
“Many survivors say, ‘Screening is a whole lot easier than fighting colorectal cancer,'” says Fight CRC President Anjee Davis. “It’s important to know at its earliest stages — when the disease is easiest to treat — symptoms can be easily overlooked; it can be a silent disease at first.”
Adds Davis: “Studies are showing a steady rise in incidence rates among those younger than age 50, so don’t pass any symptoms off by saying it’s stress or assuming it’s hemorrhoids, and don’t postpone talking to your doctor. If you are 50 years or older and you haven’t been screened, the bottom line is you need to be screened.”
Dr. Richard Goldberg, director of the West Virginia University Cancer Institute, weighed in on some frequently asked questions about the deadly disease.
For most people, doctors recommend being screened at age 50 by scheduling a colonoscopy or another take-home test. “The most common misconception is that people think it will hurt, but with IV anesthesia, people sleep through their colonoscopy and have no awareness of the procedure,” says Dr. Richard Goldberg.
Who Needs Early Testing
Anyone with a family history of colorectal cancer “should begin screening 10 years before their youngest affected relative was diagnosed,” says Dr. Goldberg. Patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) or certain genetic disorders (like Lynch Syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis) should also be tested early. African-Americans also have a tendency toward early-onset CRC and should begin regular screenings at age 45.
Key Warning Signs
According to Dr. Goldberg, “The warning signs for colorectal cancer are blood in the stool, black and tarry stools, painful bowel movements, and a change in bowel habits.” If you suffer from these symptoms, call your doctor.