March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a time to better understand the signs, symptoms, and preventative steps for a disease that kills more than 50,000 people in the U.S. each year. Colorectal cancer is also called colon cancer as colorectal cancer is a term that combines colon cancer and rectal cancer. Although it can affect people of any age, colon cancer is most commonly diagnosed in older adults. It begins when noncancerous clumps of cells called polyps form on the wall of the large intestine (colon). If left untreated, some types may develop into malignant tumors over time. To prevent this from happening and to better manage diagnosis early on, regular screening tests are recommended for individuals at risk or over a certain age; depending upon symptoms presented during initial testing further examinations like biopsies might be required as well. Multiple treatments exist once cancer is detected– including surgery, radiation therapies such as chemotherapy and targeted drugs.
SIGNS OF COLON CANCER
What are the first signs of colon cancer? Symptoms include: a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, persistent abdominal discomfort or pain, a feeling your bowels don’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue, and weight loss. Colon cancer is often silent in its early stages, but can produce a range of different symptoms depending on the size and location when it does present itself. Though there isn’t an exact cause known, scientists believe that changes to DNA may start the process which leads to healthy cells re-producing uncontrollably and forming tumors as they accumulate over time; eventually leading even further into metastasis.
Recognizing symptoms and knowing your risk factors can help with early detection and treatment of colon cancer.
- AGE: Colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but many of the people with colon cancer are older than 50.
- RACE: African-Americans have a greater risk of colon cancer than people of other races.
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions: If you have had chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you have an increased risk of colon cancer.
- FAMILY HISTORY: If you have a blood relative who has died of colon cancer, you’re more likely to develop the disease.
- DIET: If you have a low-fiber and high-fat diet, you may be at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
- INACTIVE LIFESTYLE: People who are inactive can develop colon cancer more easily. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
- DIABETES: People with diabetes have an increased risk of colon cancer.
- OBESITY: If you are obese, you have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon cancer.
- SMOKING: People who smoke increase their risk of colon cancer.
- ALCOHOL: Heavy use of alcohol increases your risk of colon cancer.
COLON CANCER PREVENTION
Colon cancer is a serious health concern – but fortunately, you can dramatically reduce your risk through lifestyle changes and proper screenings. For individuals with an average to low risk of colon cancer, doctors usually recommend considering annual testing around age 45; however, those with a family history should begin screening sooner. Speak with your doctor about the best option for your particular situation — there are several available tests, each offering its own benefit-to-risk ratio that must be taken into consideration before making any decisions. Of course, life choices also play an important role in prevention: Eating healthy foods high in fiber and antioxidants, exercising regularly, reducing stress levels, limiting alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight – all enhance overall well-being and provide additional protection against this deadly disease.
PFSP HELPS PATIENTS WITH COLON CANCER
PFSP Specialty Pharmacy is proud to support patients and their caregivers battling colon cancer. The pharmacy team at PFSP understands the challenges and complications that can arise from cancer treatments. Our caring staff will work with patients and providers to create a treatment plan to navigate your medication therapy management. At PFSP, we want to ease your mind and assist you through your cancer journey. Our pharmacists are by your side to explain your medications, make you aware of any side effects, and support you through the process.
PFSP Specialty Pharmacy provides patients and their physicians an exceptionally high standard of care with our growing team of specialized pharmacists and staff. Our dedicated team of pharmacists focus on improving adherence for patients and work to find an approach that works best for them. Bringing a fresh take on what a Specialty Pharmacy can and should be, we are committed to the care of our patients. We take pride in being an ethical resource within our community and strive each day to help our patients live enriching and full lives.