One of the Most Preventable Cancers is Easily Detectable: Screen Now

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, with a goal to call attention to this deadly and unfortunately very common form of cancer. You are invited to dress in blue, organize a fundraiser or donate to the cause to help end this preventable killer that affects the lives of more than 140,000 Americans each year, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Is your loved one suffering from colorectal cancer as they go through end of life care? Here at Pathways Home Health and Hospice, we encourage you to read on about the facts of colorectal cancer and how you can help your loved one in San Francisco as they battle the disease and even help yourself. This is one of the most preventable diseases and is easily detectable. Be aware and get a screening now.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Your intestines are made up of two main parts: the colon (AKA large intestine) and it measures between five and six feet long, beginning at the cecum and ending at the anus. The colon makes up the last five to 10 inches and is referred to as the rectum. Cancer that affects the rectum is known as rectal cancer, while cancer in the remainder of the colon is colon cancer. The umbrella term for both types of cancers in those areas is colorectal cancer.

When abnormal cells form tumors in the normal tissues of the intestines and digestive system, colorectal cancer can result, according to Fight Colorectal Cancer. The tricky part is, colorectal cancer doesn’t always display symptoms right away. If you do have symptoms, the American Cancer Society says it could be one or more of these:

  • Diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, lasting for more than three days
  • Constant feeling of need to have a bowel movement, with no relief by having one
  • Bright red rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool, giving it a dark complexion
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase your chances of developing colorectal cancer. Some you can change, like smoking, and some you can’t change, like family history. Check out both types of risk types:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Diet high in red and processed meats
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Age: it’s more common in those over 50
  • History of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Family history of colorectal disease


Screening: Catch it Early

Finding colorectal cancer early, when it’s small and hasn’t yet spread, is critical in increasing your chances of survival. That’s where screening comes in. Here are a few of the options available to you. You’ll have to ask your doctor which method he or she recommends. In general, the colonoscopy is the most common procedure.

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Part of the colon and rectum are observed with a sigmoidoscope that goes through the anus and into the rectum, moving into the lower portion of the colon. Abnormalities can then be detected. This method isn’t as common in the United States as other methods.
  • Colonoscopy: Much more common, this procedure observes the entire length of the colon which can be used to biopsy polyps and other questionable areas. The colon needs to be clean before the procedure so you will have to take special drinks for about a day beforehand and fast for a certain period before the test as well. This test usually takes about a half hour, during which time you’ll be given a sedative which can make you woozy. It’s best to arrange for someone to pick you up from the hospital or office and bring you home.
  • Double-contrast barium enema (DCBE): This type of x-ray test involves a chalky liquid called barium sulfate as well as air that both enter the colon and rectum through the anus. An x-ray can detect any abnormalities thanks to the contrast. This, like sigmoidoscopy, isn’t as common a procedure in this country.
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy): This is a form of CAT scan but one that details just the colon and rectum. The CT scanner takes many pictures as it rotates around you, to result in a three-dimensional view of the inside of the colon and rectum. This is an alternative to more invasive tests like the colonoscopy. However, you’ll still have to engage in the same bowel prep. Also, if a polyp is found, you’ll still need a colonoscopy to remove it.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Please contact us at 888-755-7855 to learn more about our home health care and hospice services. We provide high-quality, patient and family-centered care in your home, built on kindness, respect, comfort, independence, and dignity. If you want to know more about colorectal cancer screenings in San Francisco, we can provide further resources.