Colorectal cancer causes the third highest number of cancer deaths in the United States, yet it is one of the most curable cancers if treated early. One specialist with Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group has personal reasons for spreading the word for national colorectal cancer awareness month.
Through his work, Dr. Louis Barfield, a colorectal surgeon and a member of the colorectal multidisciplinary team at Mary Bird Perkins — Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, sees the devastating effects of people suffering every day from colorectal cancer. But his personal story contributes to his further motivation to encourage people to get screened and not become another statistic and victim of colorectal cancer — as his sister did. Dr. Barfield urges people to know the symptoms and get screened early.
Recognize Symptoms The most common symptoms are rectal bleeding and changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea. However these symptoms tend to show later once the disease process is further along.
Get Screened Because symptoms are not common in the early stages, it is important that your routine physical includes colorectal cancer detection screenings or procedures once you reach age 50. If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about beginning screenings at the age of 40 or possibly even earlier depending on family history. Colonoscopies are considered the gold standard for detecting cancer. Talk to your doctor and ask about your options.
Other Factors In addition to your family history, other factors that can increase the risk of colorectal cancer include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and the amount of red meat in your diet.