Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains the third most common cause of malignancy-related death in men and women in the United States. An estimated 134,490 new cases and 49,190 deaths occurred in 2016 according to a prepared abstract by the Committee on Minority Affairs and Cultural Diversity, American College of Gastroenterology.

And among all racial and ethnic groups, African-American men and women continue to have the highest rate of death and shortest survival for CRC. Screening for the disease is critical. Below is guidance from the American Cancer Society.

Blood tests for Colorectal Cancer

Your doctor might also order certain blood tests to help determine if you have colorectal cancer. These tests also can be used to help monitor your disease if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.

Complete blood count (CBC): This test measures the different types of cells in your blood. It can show if you have anemia (too few red blood cells). Some people with colorectal cancer become anemic because the tumor has been bleeding for a long time.

Liver enzymes: You may also have a blood test to check your liver function, because colorectal cancer can spread to the liver.

Tumor markers: Colorectal cancer cells sometimes make substances called tumor markers that can be found in the blood. The most common tumor markers for colorectal cancer are carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9.

Colorectal cancers can often bleed into the digestive tract. Sometimes the blood can be seen in the stool or make it look darker, but often the stool looks normal. But over time, the blood loss can build up and can lead to low red blood cell counts (anemia). Sometimes the first sign of colorectal cancer is a blood test showing a low red blood cell count.

Colonoscopy

For this test, the doctor looks at the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. It is inserted through the anus and into the rectum and the colon. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to biopsy or remove any suspicious-looking areas such as polyps, if needed.

Colonoscopy may be done in a hospital outpatient department, in a clinic, or in a doctor’s office.

 

 

Content for this article courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society, and NIH.

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