Toward Better Health


Colorectal Cancer Awareness and How Screenings Save Lives

By Jaime Elder

Even though Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month isn’t until next month, Kyle S. Eldredge, DO (pictured below) is urging Palm Beach County residents to get screened early for colorectal cancer as it might just save their lives. 

A Board Certified general surgery specialist at Advanced Surgical Physicians and the only colorectal surgeon serving Palm Beach County’s western communities, Dr. Eldredge says that colon cancer rates have been rising over the last 20 years – especially for younger Americans. 

The proportion of cases among those younger than 55 years increased from 11% in 1995 to 20% in 2019, making colorectal cancer the deadliest cancer for men under age 50 — and the second deadliest cancer among women in the same age group with breast cancer being the first. 

The disease received renewed interest in 2020 after the death of actor and Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman succumbed to stage three colorectal cancer at the age of 43 after a four-year battle with the disease. 

“By 2030, early-onset colorectal cancer is expected to become the leading cancer-related cause of death for people aged 20-to-49,” said Dr. Eldredge. “The exact reason for this increase in younger persons is unclear, but it is thought to be linked to diet, lifestyle, and the gut microbiome.”

While most early colorectal cancers do not cause symptoms, Dr. Eldregde stresses the importance of knowing the warning signs. 

“Screening should start at age 45 for those persons at average risk as over 90% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed in those older than 45,” he said. “But if you notice abdominal pain, bloody stool, fatigue, anemia due to blood loss and change in bowel habits, talk to your physician and get it checked out.”

Advanced Surgical Physicians works with patients and their gastroenterologists to choose the best approach for diseases of the colon and can treat some diagnoses with laparoscopic  minimally invasive surgery. 

One of the biggest risk factors for the development of colorectal cancer is age and Dr. Eldredge recommends men over the age of 45 get a colonoscopy every 10 years.  

“That’s for those at average risk,” he said. “If you’re at a higher risk and have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, I recommend getting a colonoscopy every five years. Having a single first degree relative with colorectal cancer can increase your risk 2-3 fold.”

Other risk factors include inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, inherited disorders that lead to increased polyp growth as well as smoking, obesity and alcohol intake.

Screenings for colorectal cancer vary and the two main types are visual tests which allow a physician to see inside the colon and rectum and a fecal test which examines stool for blood or DNA markers for cancer. 

“The most effective method is via colonoscopy which uses a camera to directly visualize the colon and any polyps that are found can be removed,” Dr. Eldredge said. “CT colonography, Cologuard and other stool-based studies are also effective screening methods for colorectal cancer.”   

“Although each test has its advantages,” Dr. Eldredge said. “The best test is the one that gets done.”