March is officially designated as National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. It is a month where colorectal cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates throughout the country join together to spread colon cancer awareness by wearing blue, holding fundraising and education events, talking to friends and family about screenings, and much more.
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The ACS also estimates 97,220 cases of colon cancer and 43,030 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2018.
Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, occurs in the colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Most colon cancers develop first as polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that may later become cancerous.
Since colorectal cancer often begins as polyps, it is important to find and remove them in order to help prevent colorectal cancer. That is where screening comes in. Expert medical groups, including the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, strongly recommend screening for colorectal cancer. Although minor details of the recommendations may vary, these groups generally recommend that people at average risk of colorectal cancer get screened at regular intervals with high-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy, or a colonoscopy beginning at age 50. People at increased risk because of a family history of colorectal cancer, polyps, or because they have inflammatory bowel disease, may be advised to start screening before age 50 or have more frequent screening.
At the Radiation Oncology Services at Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC), we treat colon cancer painlessly and noninvasively with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). EBRT is an effective treatment for colon cancer, working within cancer cells to limit their ability to multiply. During treatment, high-energy X-rays are delivered to the cancer with a linear accelerator (LINAC). The treatment process is painless, safe and treatments take about 10 to 15 minutes. Side effects are usually minimal, and most patients return to routine activities immediately after each treatment.
For more information about how colorectal cancer is treated at the Radiation Oncology Services at CAMC, please click here.