Detecting and Treating Colon Cancer Early

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. and the second most deadly. And Pennsylvania’s rate of colorectal cancer-related deaths is higher than the national average. But colorectal cancer can be treated successfully – and even cured – if detected early. Colonoscopies not only help screen for colon cancer; they can even help prevent colon cancer by removing polyps before they turn into cancer.

How Do I Get Screened for Colon Cancer?

There are a few different colon cancer screening options used to detect colorectal cancer, but Penn Highlands gastroenterologists recommend colonoscopy for most patients. Not only is it one of the most reliable screening options, but it also may be a cost savings. If any of the other colon cancer screening options come back with abnormal results, you will need to have a colonoscopy for diagnostic purposes.

Colonoscopy also may be used as a preventive measure. If your Penn Highlands physician sees precancerous polyps, or small abnormal growths, inside the colon during the procedure, he or she can remove them on the spot. This prevents the polyps from turning into cancer.

There are six types of colon cancer screening tests. The American Cancer Society recently updated its screening recommendations, lowering the age to begin screening to 45. From ages 45-75, individuals should have one of the following tests to screen for colon and rectal cancer:

  • FIT (fecal immunochemical test) or FOBT (fecal occult blood test) every year
  • stool DNA test (Cologuard) every three years
  • CT colonography or flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • colonoscopy every 10 years

What Is the Most Common Treatment For Colorectal Cancer Offered at Penn Highlands?

If you are diagnosed with colon cancer or rectal cancer, you’ll be referred to a medical oncologist, who will explain your type of cancer, including stage and treatment options. Your medical oncologist will create an individualized cancer treatment plan that may surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy or some combination.

The care plan your Penn Highlands medical oncologist develops will include details on the type of treatment you will have, including an estimated timeline. These will be based on your health and cancer stage:

  • If you have stage 0 or stage 1 colon cancer, it’s possible you may be treated with surgery alone.
  • If you have stage 2 or stage 3 colon cancer, you likely will have surgery and then chemotherapy.
  • If your cancer is stage 4, your oncologist may recommend chemotherapy prior to or in place of surgery.

No matter what type of colorectal cancer treatment you need, rest assured you won’t have to leave Central Pennsylvania to get it. Penn Highlands offers exceptional cancer care right here.

Can Colorectal Cancer Be Cured?

Typically, cancer is not referred to as “cured” but rather as “in remission.” This is because once you have cancer, your increases of recurrence increase. Cancer is now often considered a chronic disease even if you are in active remission since you will likely have additional screenings and potentially lifelong treatments.

The remission rates and five-year survival rate for patients with localized colorectal cancer is quite high at nearly 90 percent. Localized colorectal cancer has not yet spread beyond the colon or rectum. The best way to ensure your cancer is diagnosed while it is still localized is to keep up with your colon cancer screenings as directed by your physician.

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