POTSDAM - Canton-Potsdam Hospital gastroenterologists Xiaosong Song, MD, and Sebastian A. Mazzotta, MD, are urging community members to learn how to avoid the risks of colorectal cancer, especially now during colorectal cancer awareness month.
Both gastroenterologists said they work closely with the areas primary care (family and adult) practitioners to encourage preventive measures and screening for the disease.
St. Lawrence County has a high incidence of colorectal cancer, and the average annual death rate from this type of cancer surpasses that for breast cancer for women. For both sexes there is higher average annual mortality than for any other type except lung cancer, according to data from the New York state Department of Health, Dr. Song said.
Colorectal cancer screening is the best way to detect this cancer early, at a more treatable stage of the disease, and frankly, at a less costly stage of the disease, he said. Screening may event prevent colon cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, screening tools for colorectal cancer may include high-sensitivity fecal occult blood counts, sigmoidoscopy, and colonoscopy.
Many patients are familiar with these procedures because theyve seen celebrities undergoing them on television, said Dr. Song. These procedures are usually painless, with few complications, and the patient can undergo them same-day, he said.
Dr. Mazzotta noted that colorectal cancer is the number two cancer killer in the U.S. which can be prevented.
The lifetime risk of colon cancer is roughly equal in men and women, Dr. Mazzotta said. Colon cancer is common after 50 years of age, but can strike at younger ages, Colonoscopy is used for high-risk patients, who are those with a personal history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps; strong family history (i.e. first-degree relative) of the disease; history of inherited forms of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps; predisposing chronic digestive conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohns disease, or ulcerative colitis.
Those of African-American heritage should start screening at age 45 rather than 50, he said. Colorectal cancer is diagnosed at a younger age in those of African-American heritage and there is decreased survival compared to other groups, said Dr. Mazzotta.
Dr. Mazzotta stated that most early colorectal cancers do not produce symptoms. He went on to state that it is wise for a person to seek medical advice if there is new onset of abdominal pain; blood in or on the stool or change in the size and shape of bowel movements; or if there are changes in typical bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea.
All gastroenterologists agree that polyps, which are abnormal growths in the colon, should be removed. Screening tests can find pre-cancerous polyps.
Seventy-five to 90 percent of colorectal cancers can be prevented by polyp removal, said Dr. Mazzotta.
Dr. Song agreed, saying biopsies are sent to a pathology laboratory at CPH, where they are examined, and if necessary, sent to a specialist pathology laboratory called a reference lab.
CPH can achieve efficient and accurate turn-around on samples sent for analysis, and if further and/or specialist analysis is needed, our reference lab is the highly respected Mayo Laboratories, he said.
Hopefully, we find nothing, said Dr. Mazzotta. If something is detected that turns out to be cancerous, its much better for the patients prognosis to find it early. Colorectal cancer may have a genetic origin. A more aggressive approach is taken to reduce their risk for colorectal cancer.
Joining his cardiology colleagues, Dr. Mazzotta encourages the reduction of saturated fats, excessive starches, and overall weight reduction, since obesity is a risk factor for colorectal cancer as well as other life-threatening illnesses.
Consulting the CPH dietary department is another type of cancer prevention, said Dr. Mazzotta.
Squeezing exercise into your daily routine, even if its just climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, or parking farther away from an entrance, or better yet starting an exercise program with approval from your primary care practitioner, is going to reduce your risk also, Dr. Song said.
Both medical specialists agreed that greater awareness of colorectal cancer is key to creating a healthier St. Lawrence County.
People need to know that we have the tools to detect this disease, and all of us have it within our power, to a certain degree, to prevent it, said Dr. Mazzotta.
We also have tools to fight it if we find it, said Dr. Song, noting that the Center for Cancer Care at CPH provides comprehensive treatments for colorectal cancer, including the most common treatments, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Both of us talk to our colleagues in primary care and to community members in the hopes of seeing fewer colorectal cancer patients, according to Dr. Song. It is our hope that we see both the incidence and the mortality numbers go down.
For more information on procedures for screening, detecting, and treating colorectal cancer, interested individuals should contact their primary care practitioner or contact Dr. Mazzotta in Canton at 315-386-8141 and Dr. Song in Potsdam at 315-261-4493 or visit www.cphospital.org.