Eight percent of all new cancer diagnoses in Portland last year fell under the category of colorectal cancer, according to an estimate by the National Cancer Institute. Throughout the month of March, which has been designated Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, doctors and nurses at The Portland Clinic will further raise awareness of this disease, working alongside physicians across the nation to reduce the number of those affected and the rate of mortality related with the ailment.
Colorectal cancer targets a patient’s colon and/or rectum and typically begins as a polyp on the inner lining of the digestive tract, which can grow, mutate and spread over the years. In many cases, no change takes place within the polyp, and the growth is benign. However, benign or adenomatous polyps are still commonly referred to as a precancerous condition. Luckily, the disease is extremely preventable and treatable if found early in patients, and treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy, are available for each diagnosis, as prescribed by a physician.
The Portland Clinic has fantastic gastroenterologists on staff, all of whom bring years of experience and exemplary academic credentials to our neighbors in the Rose City.
Are you at risk?
More than 90 percent of patients with colorectal cancer are in their 50s or older; the risk increases as you age. Preexisting conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or a genetic syndrome, including familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome, may increase the risk of developing colon or rectal cancers.
Our providers at The Portland Clinic encourage all of their patients to fill out personal and medical history forms with as much detail as possible for an accurate diagnosis of potential preexisting conditions that may form cancer. It’s important to speak with immediate family members to establish a comprehensive family history of disease to share with your physician.
Protect yourself. Understand the symptoms.
Understanding the symptoms of colorectal cancer is one of the many steps you can take to reduce your risk of a more serious diagnosis. Keep in mind that early colorectal cancer may have few to no symptoms. The sooner it is diagnosed, the higher the rates of successful treatment and survival. The signs normally associated with the disease include:
- A change in bowel habits — consistent diarrhea, constipation or unsatisfying bowel movements
- Blood in your stool, resulting in a bright red or darker color
- A constant feeling of gas, bloating, pain or cramps
- Abnormal weight loss
If you experience any of these symptoms for an extended amount of time, you have multiple options for tests to screen for colorectal cancer, including a full body physical, an internal exam (colonoscopy), stool-based tests looking for blood and tests for abnormal DNA markers. The Portland Clinic gastroenterology specialists Chris Hyun, M.D., Albert Khine, M.D., and Young Choi, M.D., are available by appointment and can help you develop a prevention and/or treatment plan. Please call 503-223-3113 or go to The Portland Clinic’s gastroenterology services page for more information.
Lower your risk.
Even though genetics can increase the risk of colorectal cancer in some patients, everyone has the power to greatly reduce their chances of contracting this illness with a few simple lifestyle choices.
- Improve your diet— One of the easiest ways to help prevent colorectal cancer is to opt for more healthy choices when it comes to your daily food intake. Dietary restrictions aren’t always necessary, but consuming less saturated fat, salt and red meat and eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will help you maintain a healthy digestive system.
- Exercise— The relationship between colorectal cancer and physical activity has been studied extensively, and the risk of colorectal cancer has been seen to significantly reduce among those who are more physically active. The risk of developing colon polyps, which can mutate into cancer, can be reduced with physical activity.
- Stop smoking— Not only does using tobacco affect a patient’s risk of developing lung or mouth cancer, it has also been linked to multiple other cancers. Stop the use of tobacco of any variety, including e-cigarettes and vaporizers (vaping), as soon as possible.
- Go easy on the spirits— An occasional drink is not a problem, but binge drinking or drinking for the sole purpose of becoming intoxicated can have a strong effect on cancer-causing cells in the liver, colon and rectum. Consume alcohol responsibly and in moderation.