March Marks Colorectal Cancer Month, Here Is What You Need to Know

Often when it comes to cancer, finding it early through screenings is the key to survival. This is especially true when it comes to colorectal cancer, often categorized as a silent cancer.  

“Typically with colorectal cancer you don’t present with signs until it’s at a later stage,” said Jacquelyn Charbel, DO, colorectal surgeon at MSU Health Care who practices at Karmanos Cancer Institute. “If it does get to the point where the cancer is symptomatic, you might see a change in your bowel habits, blood in your stool, or abdominal pain.”

Regular colonoscopy screening is recommended for a person of average risk at the age of 45; however, if you are at an elevated risk for developing colorectal cancer, you may begin colonoscopy screenings earlier.

“Getting a colonoscopy screening is the best thing you can do for yourself to prevent colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Charbel. “If you have a family member who has had colorectal cancer, you are at higher risk and may need to begin screening earlier. You should also be screened before 45 if you have any of the symptoms such as change in bowel habits or blood in the stool.”

Colorectal health starts with your primary care provider. They can help refer you to a specialist who performs colonoscopies. 

A colonoscopy screening typically takes about a half-hour and is performed with sedation. Once you are sedated, the provider will insert a scope to check for polyps or other abnormalities. If something concerning is identified, then a provider would want to biopsy the concerning tissue for cancer.

“If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, there are many treatment options available,” said Dr. Charbel. “Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these treatment methods.”

Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing offers a Gastrointestinal (GI) Multidisciplinary clinic. A team of colorectal surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists work together to provide total care to all oncology patients. Oncology social workers and a specialized nurse navigator work to assist patients in care coordination and social stresses during and after treatment. The multidisciplinary meeting occurs twice per week and includes a discussion on cancers throughout the GI tract, including the intestines, stomach, esophagus, gallbladder, and liver.

 “Our multidisciplinary approach is great because we have input from all avenues of care. It’s not a cookie-cutter program for everyone; it’s very specific to you, your health, your stage, and what your goals are,” said Dr. Charbel.

If you are looking for a primary care provider because you would like to learn more about your colorectal health, click here for a list of primary care providers accepting new patients at McLaren Greater Lansing.

To learn more about Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Greater Lansing, click here.

To learn more about health and wellness, click here.