HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
New Mexico State University’s Cancer Outreach program partnered with the 49th Medical Group during colorectal cancer awareness month, March 7, 2019, in the medical clinic here.
NMSU’s Cancer Outreach brought a giant blow-up colon to offer everyone a visual representation of what polyps and lesions look like in a healthy colon and when cancer is present.
“As a little kid, I always had a deep admiration for the military,” said Juan C. Padilla, NMSU Cancer Outreach student. “Getting to work with and help military members improve their health by encouraging them to get screened is very rewarding for me.”
As the second most common cancer for females and the third most common for males, it is integral that one is screened for colorectal cancer. The screening age is typically 50 years old and the testing method used will determine how often it will need to be repeated.
“With screening, you can find precancerous lesions and we find those all the time,” said Kimberly Jenson, 49th MDG Internal Medicine physician. “That is why the screening is recommended, because there are these certain polyps that can grow into cancer.”
Some may be screened as early as 40 years old due to a family history of colorectal cancer, such as a first degree relative being diagnosed before age 60. There are very few symptoms of this cancer that are not general symptoms, which makes it difficult to diagnose without screening.
“The scary thing is (colorectal cancer) is asymptomatic – there are no symptoms,” said Jenson. “There may be rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, change in bowel habits, anemia and fatigue, but again, those are all general symptoms. Bleeding is the most common.”
This cancer can be screened many different ways, but the two most common are stool tests and colonoscopies. A stool test is where the stool is tested for blood or cancerous DNA and can be done once a year. A colonoscopy has a long tube with a camera inserted through the rectum to search for polyps or other precancerous lesions and can be done every 10 years, unless they find precancerous symptoms.
“People complain about getting the prep done for (a colonoscopy), but it is such a proven method to prevent cancer and (colorectal) is such a common type of cancer,” said Jensen. “You just have to do it because it can save your life.”
If the tests for colorectal cancer come back positive, it is treated with radiation concentrated on the cancerous spot and then surgically removed. Most of the time it is treated with radiation therapy concentrated on the spot and then it is surgically removed.
“The survival rates for stage one is 93 percent, whereas stage four is about 6-10 percent,” Padilla. “The treatment is very effective if it’s treated early. If it’s detected at a late stage, it may be too late.”