According to Health Canada, the month of March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month! So, I thought it would be fitting to talk about Colorectal Cancer (CRC) and how naturopathic medicine can benefit you or the ones you love.
CRC is diagnosed in the colon (large intestine) and/or the rectum when rapidly dividing tumor cells are detected through imaging; most commonly a colonoscopy.
Although it is typical for CRC to occur in individuals over 50 years of age, it can happen earlier - especially when there is a family history. When we talk about risk factors, we often think that if we don’t have a family history, then we don’t need to worry about it! NOT TRUE! When it comes to CRC, research has shown that most individuals (approximately 80%) who get CRC do NOT have a family history associated with the condition. However, individuals with a 1st degree relative who has or has had CRC, have an 18% chance of getting CRC at some point in their lifetime. Other risk factors, which relate to all cancer types include: sedentary lifestyle, diet high in meats and processed foods, smoking and alcohol intake.
It is important that CRC is caught earlier rather than later in order to prevent spreading or metastasis of the cancer to other organ systems in the body. Some symptoms to look out for include changes in bowel movements, changes in the quality of the stool, blood or mucous in the stool, abdominal pain and a continued desire to empty the bowel. If you are concerned, there are more signs and symptoms that your naturopathic doctor can ask you about that may help initiate further investigation.
If you have a family history, or you suspect that you may have CRC, there are specialized laboratory tests for CRC that we can run, to detect your current risk and initiate investigation:
• Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) – This marker is commonly elevated in patients with CRC and can be used as a screening test, to monitor active cancer treatments and remission.
• Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT test) - This is a screening test that can detect minute amounts of blood in the stool, and so, is effective for guiding investigation of early CRC.
A colonoscopy (direct image of the colon) may be necessary depending on a variety of factors. General guidelines state that at the age of 50 years, a colonoscopy should be performed. However, if there is a family history (especially a 1st degree relative), then the colonoscopy should begin 10 years prior to when that family member was diagnosed, for early detection - whichever occurs first!!
Conventional practice for treating CRC can include all or some of the following: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Naturopathic approaches can help manage side effects from these practices, while also increasing the effectiveness of these treatments. Given that chemotherapy and radiation serve important roles in cancer treatment and having received formal training in integrative oncology, I am able to discern which naturopathic treatments and therapies will interact with chemotherapeutic and other pharmacological agents. My goal is to help you feel better through your treatment, while creating an optimal biological environment that helps your medications work to their fullest potential.
If you are interested in learning more, you can book a Free 15-Minute Information Consultation today!