UCI Health supports colorectal cancer awareness

The more you know, the better you’ll be able to beat colorectal cancer

March 03, 2014

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and UCI Health wants you to know that the second leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths is preventable, treatable and curable.

“Don’t ignore the health of your digestive tract,” says Dr. Michael J. Stamos, chair of UCI Health Department of Surgery and president of the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons. “Colorectal cancer does not have to be fatal — the more you know, the better you’ll be able to beat colorectal cancer before it beats you.”

Throughout March, UCI Health will post tips about prevention, detection, and treatment on Facebook (facebook.com/UCIrvineHealth) and Twitter (@UCIrvineHealth). Go to ucirvinehealth.org/colorectal for more information about screening, services and appointments.

UCI Health is also sponsoring public service announcements featuring Stamos during March to remind viewers that colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable if caught early. The 15- and 30-second segments will appear on KCBS in Los Angeles, Orange County and Inland areas.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 102,000 colon and 40,000 rectal cancer cases are diagnosed annually and more than 50,000 people die each year. As many as 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if all men and women aged 50 years or older were routinely screened. In most cases, colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths, in the colon or rectum.

Stamos says colon cancer cases often have no symptoms. However, the following signs should be checked with your doctor:

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other change in bowel habits
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Narrow stools
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Weight loss with no known reason

Screening for colorectal cancer is recommended beginning no later than age 50. Guidelines include the following tests:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years.
  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test, also known as a stool test, yearly.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years.

Those who have inflammatory bowel disease or personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps should consider earlier and/or more frequent screening, he says. It is also important to note that almost 10 percent of patients are diagnosed with colorectal cancer before age 50, making attention to symptoms and risk factors very important.

Surgery, chemotherapy and, for rectal cancer, radiation are likely treatments for those diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The earlier the stage, the less intense and invasive the treatment, and the better the outcome, Stamos said.

For Stage I cancers, surgery alone can yield cure rates greater than 95 percent. Stamos says minimally invasive (laparoscopic or robotic) surgery can treat all but the most advanced cases while reducing the patient’s recovery time and decreasing complications.

Through the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCI Health features clinical trials that offer patients access to the latest surgical and medical treatments. Last year, Dr. Jason Zell opened a national trial called PACES that seeks to minimize the recurrence of colon cancer. Search for other clinical trials at UCI Health ›

The cancer center is one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and the only one serving Orange County.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 412-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 15 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.