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Medical Professionals


Colorectal Cancer: Are You Aware? What’s The Big Hype? Nina Paonessa, DO, FACOS

Nina Paonessa, DO, FACOS, an established colorectal surgeon practicing in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, answers questions about colorectal cancer, one of the leading cancers in both men and women.

How common is colorectal cancer and who is at risk? Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States among both men and women. It affects 140,000 people annually and causes 50,000 deaths. The average person has a one in 20 chance of developing colorectal cancer in his/her lifetime. This risk is increased if there is a family history of colorectal polyps or cancer, and is even higher still in those patients with a history of breast, uterine or ovarian cancer, and patients with a history of extensive inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s colitis. Additionally, a person’s risk for developing colorectal cancer increases significantly with age.

What causes colorectal cancer?

How is colorectal cancer treated? Nearly all cases of colorectal cancer require surgery. Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes required in addition to surgery. If the cancer is diagnosed and treated in the earliest stages, approximately 80-90% of patients are restored to their normal health. The cure rate decreases to 50% or less when the cancer is diagnosed in the later/advanced stages. Less than 5% of all colorectal cancer patients require a colostomy or “bag,” thanks to modern technology. Additionally, modern technology has made possible minimally invasive colorectal surgery using laparoscopic or robotic surgery techniques. Both laparoscopic and robotic colorectal surgery are types of minimally invasive surgery in which small incisions are made to perform major surgery. This allows for shorter hospital stays, decreased incisional pain and earlier return to work and other activities.

Can colorectal cancer be prevented? Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that is preventable. Obtaining a screening colonoscopy at regular intervals is the single best way to prevent colorectal cancer. Your colorectal surgeon or specialist is able to review the guidelines for screening colonoscopy based upon your age, medical history and family history. Although not definitively proven, studies published in the literature mention additional factors that may lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer and include eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in regular, vigorous exercise.

It is generally agreed that nearly all colon and rectal cancer begins in benign polyps, called adenomas. These pre-malignant polyps, or growths, occur in the wall of the colon and/or rectum and may eventually increase in size and become cancer, or medically speaking, carcinoma. This is known as the “adenomacarcinoma sequence.” Several factors have been mentioned in the literature that may increase a person’s risk for developing colorectal cancer, including age, a diet high in fat and cholesterol, an inactive/sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking and environmental exposures.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer? Unfortunately, polyps and early cancers do not produce any physical signs or symptoms. Therefore, symptoms usually indicate late or advanced disease. The most common symptoms of colorectal cancer are rectal bleeding and changes in bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea. These symptoms are common in many other disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, so it is very important to have a thorough examination should you experience them. NOT ALL RECTAL BLEEDING IS DUE TO HEMORRHOIDS. It is very important for patients to remember this and seek evaluation if they are experiencing rectal bleeding. Other symptoms such as abdominal pain and weight loss are usually late symptoms and quite possibly indicate advanced/extensive disease.

How is colorectal cancer diagnosed? Evaluation of colorectal cancer is first begun with a complete history and physical exam, including a digital rectal exam and possibly testing the stool for blood. A colonoscopy is the most definitive test used to diagnose colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is performed by a colorectal surgeon or other specialist in order to get a direct visualization of the inside of the colon and rectum. A colonoscopy is a safe, painless, outpatient procedure performed under a light sedation. Based upon the findings on colonoscopy, your colorectal surgeon or other specialist may recommend other testing such as blood work, a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis, pelvic MRI and/or ultrasound.

Colon and Rectal Surgery

Board Certified in General Surgery and Proctology • laparoscopic surgery • abdominal/pelvic surgery • fecal incontinence • endoanal/rectal ultrasound • anorectal surgery

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www.paonessacrs.com March/April 2021

Profile for The County Woman

Atlantic County Woman - March/April 2021  

The County Woman’s Newspaper is published bi-monthly in Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey and is available free of charge...

Atlantic County Woman - March/April 2021  

The County Woman’s Newspaper is published bi-monthly in Atlantic, Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey and is available free of charge...