Talk to Your Doctor About Your Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Susan Szulc, MD

Feeling blue? March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. One in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at some point in their life. Over 140,000 people will be diagnosed this year. Like most diseases, there is no single cause and there are many risk factors you can’t change. These risk factors include:

  • Age>60 years old
  • IBD (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis)
  • African American or eastern European descent
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Family history of colon cancer or certain inherited diseases (FAP or HNPCC/Lynch Syndrome)

There is some evidence that links colon cancer risk to certain lifestyle habits, such as drinking alcohol and smoking. (This is another reason to quit smoking!) Research also shows that low-fat, high-fiber diets may reduce your risk. Caffeine may even decrease your risk.

But, nearly all colon cancers begin as polyps and slowly develop into cancer. Many times, there are no symptoms.   However, symptoms such as blood in your stool, a decrease in your stool size (pencil-thin) or unintended, unexplained weight loss should be addressed by your primary care physician.

Screening is so important because colon cancer is often silent.  Screening allows for colon cancer to be caught in its earliest and most curable stage. You should undergo colon cancer screening starting at age 50.

Many patients come to me and have put off getting a colonoscopy because they are scared of the procedure. However, there are many options available for screening, including tests you can do at home.  There is bound to be one method that you will find agreeable.  Talk to your PCP today!

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About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension.

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