March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The Oklahoma Proton Center (OPC) in Oklahoma City is celebrating a medical breakthrough in colorectal cancer treatment – pioneering the first proton therapy treatment for anal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), colorectal cancer is expected to cause over 50,000 deaths during 2017. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and OPC is working to educate Oklahomans about warning signs and treatment options.

In 2010, OPC patient Dennis Starbuck went through proton therapy treatment for anal cancer with only minimal side effects of treatment such as skin irritation. After completing treatment, Starbuck returned to an active lifestyle almost immediately. Since 2010, he has remained healthy and free of cancer. This successful treatment has led to several other proton centers adopting this technique, and nearly 30 patients have been treated so far in the United States.

“The precision of proton therapy is what made this treatment for Dennis so successful,” said Dr. Gary Larson, local radiation oncologist. “At OPC, we’re able to target cancerous tissue with greater accuracy to minimize the damage to healthy tissue. This kind of creative problem-solving and state-of-the-art use of protons is exciting for our team of radiation oncologists and our patients.”

If you are diagnosed, it’s important to be aware of all the available treatment options for colorectal cancer. Proton therapy is a viable treatment option for colorectal cancer and accurately targets cancerous tissue, sparing healthy tissue and critical surrounding organs from unnecessary radiation.

The ACS estimates that approximately 135,430 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. This month, OPC is encouraging Oklahomans to stay on top of their health by scheduling routine appointments and being familiar with the following risk factors: Lifestyle factors are associated with the risk of colorectal cancer. Behaviors like smoking, inactivity and heavy alcohol use have all been linked to a higher risk for colorectal cancer.

Certain diets can increase your risk. A diet that is high in red meats or meat that is cooked at very high temperatures (such as frying, broiling or grilling) have all been linked to an increased likelihood of diagnosis. Alternatively, diets that are high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains have been linked with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Appropriate screenings can lead to early diagnosis. It is recommended that anyone over 50 who is not at an increased risk for diagnosis begin getting regular screenings. The ACS reports that less than 60 percent of adults ages 50 years and older have received a colorectal cancer screening in Oklahoma.

Keep an open dialogue with your doctor. Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood that you will develop colorectal cancer, but having several risk factors does not mean that you will be diagnosed. It is important to have an ongoing conversation with your physician to monitor your health and map out a care plan that is right for you.

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