We’re only about 80 days into 2022, but according to the American Cancer Society, the U.S. has already seen a total of 106,180 new cases of colon cancer and 44,850 new cases of rectal cancer. Though colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, the disease is often overlooked (perhaps because it involves an “icky” part of the human body?). Take the opportunity to learn more about colorectal cancer today.
Who is at risk?
As with most illnesses, there are some ways you can mediate your risk of affliction, and there are other risk factors over which you have no control.
For example, the likelihood of a colorectal cancer diagnosis increases as you get older. Most cases occur for people over the age of 50. Other immutable factors that increase your chance of colorectal cancer include genetic factors and racial identity. African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the US, and Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks of any ethnic group in the world. People who already struggle with Type 2 diabetes should also be vigilant about colorectal cancer: the two diseases have a high rate of comorbidity, which means they often appear together and can exacerbate each other.
However, this also means that you can combat your chances of colorectal cancer in the same way you can avoid Type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy diet and incorporating regular exercise into your life are the two best ways to protect yourself. Practice moderation when it comes to red meats (e.g. beef, pork, lamb), processed meats (e.g. hot dogs, lunch meat), and sugary drinks. The same goes for alcohol consumption and smoking—these substances don’t just affect liver and lung cancer. Cutting down on substance use is always a good idea.
How is colorectal cancer treated? By whom?
Depending on the stage of the cancer, the treatment plan may vary from patient-to-patient. Colorectal cancer is commonly treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
After receiving a colorectal cancer diagnosis, you may suddenly find a team of professionals working on your treatment. These people may include:
- A gastroenterologist: a doctor who treats disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI or
- A surgical oncologist (oncologic surgeon): a doctor who uses surgery to treat
- A colorectal surgeon: a doctor who uses surgery to treat diseases of the colon
- A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy
- A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as
chemotherapy or targeted therapy
- Other specialists such as physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, psychologists,
nutritionists, or social workers
How can I learn more?
CommunityHealth is hosting a free webinar for those interested in learning more about colorectal cancer. The webinar will take place on Thursday March 24th at 6pm, and as an attendance incentive, every participant will receive a $20 Amazon gift card. Our host, Erika Rodriguez, is from the University of Chicago’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. She specializes in Latinx outreach and is committed to serving disadvantaged and underserved populations. We’re so excited to have her! So far 12 patients have registered. If you’re interested in joining us, please click here to register!