AMPM Billing proudly serves multiple gastroenterology practices. As such, we are chiefly aware of one of this field’s most serious concerns: colorectal cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have designated March national Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. After heart disease, colorectal cancer is the top killer of both men and women in the United States. Here are a few facts to help spread awareness of this common form of cancer.
What is Colorectal Cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer can begin in the rectum or the colon. Because both points of origin share many traits in common, they are usually grouped together under one name. As with all forms of cancer, colorectal cancer is caused by the cells in the body multiplying out of control. In this case, those cells usually form into nodules of tissue on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These are called polyps.
Many polyps are benign; however, some can become malignant over time. There are two types of polyps that exist:
- Adenomatous – known as precancerous polyps, these have the potential to form into colorectal cancer.
- Inflammatory and Hyperplastic – the more common type of polyp found in most patients. These are not considered precancerous.
The risk of cancer increases with the size of the polyps and also how many are found. Generally, when your gastroenterologist encounters a polyp, it will be removed and possibly sent for lab work or biopsy.
Cancer will spread from the polyps and into the wall of the colon. From there, it can move into the lymph vessels and become a threat to the lymph nodes. Therefore, it is very important that colorectal cancer is caught early on. The best method of doing so is through regular screenings.
Starting at age 50, the Affordable Care Act stipulates that health insurance carriers provide one free screening colonoscopy every ten years. This is a major push to stop colorectal cancer in its tracks. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a thin, flexible tube is inserted via the rectum. This tube contains a camera which transmits an image to the doctor of the inside of the colon and large intestine. If polyps are found, the doctor may use tiny instruments to remove or biopsy the tissue. Despite being used as a preventative measure, colonoscopies are considered surgical procedures. In addition, general anesthesia is usually administered and the procedure usually lasts about a half hour.
However, it is important to bear in mind other factors when deciding when to get screened. As with many forms of cancer, age, race, family history and personal history all have an impact on your risk. Therefore, it is highly recommended that those with a higher risk factor of colorectal cancer discuss this with their doctor. Additionally, it may be recommended that the patient begin screening colonoscopies earlier than age 50. Common risk factors include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Diets high in red meat
- Inherited conditions such as Lynch Syndrome
- Those of African American decent
- Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
Do yourself and your loved ones a favor this March by learning more about colorectal cancer. Get screened and encourage others, especially older family members, to speak to their doctor about getting screened as well. If you’ve already been screened once, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations for coming back for your next colonoscopy. Colorectal cancer does not need to be a death sentence. Catching cancer early is half the battle!
For more info on how to get the most out of your first GI visit, read our article here.
Disclaimer: The materials contained on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice on any subject matter. Advanced Medical Practice Management does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site.