The Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Patients
Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease involving the colon need to be especially vigilant about screenings for colorectal cancer. These patients are at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer than the general population.
Inflammation of the colon can cause continuous turnover of cells in the intestinal lining, which increases the chance of irregularities that may lead to cancer. Though the vast majority of patients with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis will never develop colorectal cancer, it is important to discuss the risk with your doctor. Colorectal cancer is a highly treatable disease when it’s found early.
Minimizing your Colorectal Cancer Risk
Video Length 3:00
Minimizing your Colorectal Cancer Risk IBD patients can minimize their colorectal cancer risk. Listen to learn more!
after spending eight years with an
inflammatory bowel disease you learn to
live with it but then at that eight year
mark another wrinkle gets thrown in
you're an increased risk of developing
colorectal cancer I can't say that I'm
not nervous about it that's Jonathan
Miller a 28 year old salesman in Chicago
he was diagnosed eight years ago so he's
just entering that era of heightened
risk whatever happens is gonna happen
when I get there I'm gonna deal with it
trying to eat right trying to work out
it's all about keeping my IBD under
control if I'm experiencing something
like the T nausea diarrhea I'm gonna
talk to my doctor because that could be
a normal flare-up or it could be
something more he's got the right idea
because the formula for minimizing your
colorectal cancer risk is first to
control your IBD and then to make sure
you and your doctor are vigilant about
monitoring for cancer and that's a
challenge when things are going well
here's dr. Jeannie Ashburn from the
Cleveland Clinic it's very easy to look
at that patient and say we're doing a
great job at controlling their symptoms
and their flares but what goes
hand-in-hand with that is these patients
have an increased risk for developing a
cancer down the road or even in the
short term and we need to survey them
and make sure we're staying on top of
that the key risk factors of the
duration and severity of the disease and
also genetics it's important to stick to
your meds control flare-ups and have
regular checkups that focus on cancer
surveillance as well as a colonoscopy
every 1 to 2 years the benefit of doing
this routinely is that we can pick up on
surveillance abnormal cells that may
alert us to either a precancerous lesion
or a cancer itself diagnostic technology
is improving helping doctors catch
problems early last week for example
doctors discovered a polyp on the colon
of missio Doherty a senior at the
University of Denver I ended up going to
the hospital because I was just having
IBD symptoms it was so severe something
I never felt before and there was the
polyp her doctors don't yet know if it's
precancerous but still it was unwelcome
I had a breakdown and was pretty upset I
was falling and just saying why like
this is not fair like why does this have
to happen to me but the good news is
that it was caught early and now Missy
and her doctor have time to make the
best choice I don't want to get to a
point where we've waited too long and
then we go in and see that it's really
severely I'd rather have my colon
removed and have really severe cancer
Missy was back at the gym this morning
working out and by afternoon was helping
her sorority recruit new members she's
managing cancer risk just like her IBD
with determination that discipline and
practicality I think it's only gonna
slow me down as much as I let it just
like I'm Edie
Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
A diagnosis of ulcerative colitis or a type of Crohn’s disease that only affects the colon, called Crohn’s colitis
Eight to 10-year history of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
Severe and/or extensive colon inflammation
Primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare condition that causes bile duct inflammation and scarring
Dysplasia, or changes in cells that are precursors of cancer, of the colon or rectum
Family history of colorectal cancer
Thinking About Colorectal Cancer
Video Length 00:01:56
Thinking About Colorectal Cancer
Early Detection is Key
Screening for colorectal cancer should be a regular and ongoing conversation between you and your doctors. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Patients who have had symptoms for eight years or longer should get a colonoscopy every one to two years..
Regular colonoscopies can find precancerous tissue and early cancers, making it easier to treat.
Work with your healthcare team to get your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis inflammation under control. This will make finding colorectal cancer easier.
Make sure to follow all instructions from your doctor on preparing your bowel before a colonoscopy.
Reduce Your Risk
See your gastroenterologist at least once a year.
Keep a list of symptoms or concerns, and discuss these with your doctor at clinic visits.
Take your prescribed medications to keep your colon inflammation well-controlled.
Continue your medications, even when you are feeling healthy.
Notify your doctor if a family member develops colorectal cancer.
Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
Advances in Cancer Screening
There have been several advances in technology that can be used during a colonoscopy to improve the quality of surveillance and help identify cancer or precancerous lesions in the colon.
These tools include high-definition colonoscopy, scopes, processors, and screens, which can help increase the resolution of the images your doctor takes during during a colonoscopy.
A chromoendoscopy may be done to help your doctor find polyps or precancerous changes during a colonoscopy. During a chromoendoscopy, a blue liquid dye is sprayed into the colon to highlight and detect slight changes in the lining of your intestine. You may have blue bowel movements after this procedure.
To read more about colorectal cancer screening and chromoendoscopy, visit the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
This educational material is supported by the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation. Additional support is provided through the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's annual giving programs and donors.
A special thank you to the patients, caregivers, and medical professionals on our Patient and Professional Educational Advisory Committee for their contributions to this resource.