Dr. Graham Sellers is a colon and rectal surgeon practicing in Denver, CO. Dr. Sellers specializes in all surgical aspects of colorectal disease, including colon cancer, rectal cancer, anal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, colostomy and complex proctology. Colon and... more
Hardly anyone likes to talk about this particular disease, but every year colorectal cancer – cancer of the colon or rectum – is diagnosed in almost 140,000 people. Almost 50,000 people die from it, making colon and rectal cancer one of the leading causes of cancer deaths. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, symbolized by the blue ribbon. So this is a good time to be talking about how this common cancer can be prevented, and the ways that colon and rectal surgeons treat it.
The bad news about colorectal cancer is that it’s often asymptomatic, especially in the early stages. “The good news is that with screening it can be prevented or found early when treatment is most effective,” said Dr. Graham Sellers, a colorectal surgeon with Colon and Rectal Clinic of Colorado. More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people 50 and older, so that’s when regular screening is recommended to begin. There’s been a 60 percent increase in screening rates within the last five years, but one-third of the target population still isn’t getting screened. “When we do a colonoscopy, which right now is the gold standard for screening, we can remove polyps which might turn into cancer later,” Sellers said.
Colonoscopy involves passing a lighted scope with a camera into the rectum and advancing through the colon so the doctor can see any polyps and remove them. Both men and women at age 50 are usually advised to get a colonoscopy every 10 years, unless they are considered at higher risk because of family history of colon cancer or a personal history of previous colon polyps.
If cancer is detected during screening, surgery may be called for. “People with colorectal cancer are often good candidates for minimally invasive surgery, which means it can be done with only a couple of tiny incisions and patients recover more quickly and with less pain,” Sellers said. Dr. Sellers and his partners are using the minimally invasive da Vinci Xi robotic system for some colorectal cancer surgeries because of its precision and its ability to work well in very confined spaces in the body.
But the real goal is to catch colorectal cancer before it starts through screening. Speak with your doctor about which colon and rectal cancer screening option is best for you.
Spread the word: March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!