March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to schedule a screening for colorectal cancer, recommends Nicholas Kuiper, D.O., general surgeon at St. Anthony Regional Hospital.
“Colorectal cancer, the third-leading cancer in the United States, will be responsible for more than 50,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2019,” said Dr. Kuiper. “But there is good news in the fight – colorectal cancer can often be prevented through appropriate screening.”
Kuiper believes regular screening is the key to successfully fighting the disease and emphasizes public awareness of the cancer and screening is essential all year long.
“Doctors recommend a screening colonoscopy beginning at age 45, then every ten years afterward for people who are not at an elevated risk for the disease,” said Dr. Kuiper. Elevated risk is defined as an individual who has had a close relative diagnosed with colorectal or colon cancer.
The main reason for these guidelines is it usually takes about 10 years for abnormal cells to start to grow into polyps and then develop into cancer, explained Kuiper.
“If individuals follow recommendations and undergo screening colonoscopies when they should, most polyps are often discovered and removed before they have a chance to turn into cancer.”
For those who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, recent improvements in medical technology have substantially improved patient experiences and outcomes, says Dr. Kuiper, who specializes in robotic surgery at St. Anthony Regional Hospital.
“In the last few years the technology for robotic colon and general surgery has improved greatly, and more surgeons have adopted robotics as a mainstay type of treatment. Thanks to robotic colon resection for colorectal and colon cancer, patient recovery time and hospital stays have decreased.”
Additionally, radiation and chemotherapy treatments continue to evolve each year, making advanced colorectal and colon cancer more treatable and better tolerated by patients.”
According to national statistics, individuals have a 4.5 percent chance of developing colorectal cancer within their lifetime. How do Iowans protect themselves?
Dr. Kuiper stresses, “The most important message remains simple – see your doctor for a screening. Early detection and early treatment lead to a much-improved rate of survival if colorectal or colon cancer is detected.”
- nicholas kuiper