March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Did you know that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month? This means that it is time to turn our focus towards the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the US for both men and women. Fortunately, the risk of dying from colorectal cancer can be drastically reduced through early detection. Consider joining organizations like the Colon Cancer Alliance this month as they help raise awareness for colorectal cancer screening.
Each year, about 137,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and this disease kills more than 50,000 patients each year. Ironically, it also happens to be one of the more preventable forms of cancer when detected early. Raising awareness about the importance of routine colon screening and available treatments for colorectal cancer is the driving force behind this awareness event.
Who’s At Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
A person’s risk for developing this disease increases with their age, and it poses the greatest risk to adults over 50 years old. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) ask that all adults between the ages of 50 and 75 be screened for colon cancer at least once. Unfortunately, many people in this age range either choose not to get screened or are unaware of these national guidelines.
(Awareness Fact: More than 90 percent of all colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed in patients over the age of 50.)
We highly recommend going in for a colonoscopy not long after your 50th birthday. Since it is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, this would be the perfect time to talk to your doctor about these screening tests. Those of you who have been screened should talk to your friends about getting screened too– it’s an awkward conversation that could save a life.
The following tests can be used to detect colon cancer at an early and treatable stage:
- Colonoscopy (recommended every 10 years)
- Virtual colonoscopy (recommended every 5 years)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (recommended every 5 years)
- Double-contrast barium enema (recommended every 5 years)
Additionally, there are certain factors which could mean that someone is at greater risk of developing this type of cancer. Please talk to your doctor if any of the following apply to you:
- Family history of colorectal polyps or colon cancer
- You’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) or ulcerative colitis
- You were born with a genetic syndrome like Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
Symptoms Associated with Colorectal Cancer
Many cases of colorectal cancer don’t produce any noticeable symptoms, which is why routine screening can save so many lives. There are many people living with polyps in their colon who don’t know it. The symptoms that have been linked to colorectal cancers include:
- Cramps, aches or other stomach pains that don’t subside
- Blood showing in the stool after a movement
- Unexplained loss of weight
Please note that any of these occurrences could be the result of some other medical condition– not just colon cancer. Please notify your doctor if you have experienced any of these indications.
Protecting Yourself Against Colorectal Cancer
In addition to getting routine screening, there are a number of steps you can take in your everyday life in order to protect yourself from developing cancer. Here are just a few things to consider this month:
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week
- Don’t smoke cigarettes (smoking cessations are great ways to quit too)
- Maintain a healthy weight for your age
- Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day (women) or two drinks a day (men)
- Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your regular diet
- Reduce the amount of red and processed meat in your regular diet
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Initiatives
Get involved in one of these events to help raise awareness for colorectal cancer initiatives:
- CDC’s Screen for Life – The Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign educates adults over the age of 50 about the importance of getting routine colon screenings.
- Highway to Health – This bike and car show helps raise essential funds for the Colon Cancer Alliance.
- March Forward Campaign – The “March Forward” campaign is the American Cancer Society’s initiative designed to increase colon cancer screenings to 80 percent by 2018.
We urge you to consider displaying some blue this month to show that you support the fight against colorectal cancer. For more information about this illness or Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, please check out the Colon Cancer Alliance’s website.