Colorectal Cancer Awareness month
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to learn more about cancer involving the colon and rectum.
- Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States.
- Colorectal cancer occurs equally among men and women.
- 75% of colorectal cancers are not associated with a family history.
- This year, 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, and 56,000 people will die from this cancer.
- The mortality rate for colorectal cancer surpasses deaths from both breast and prostate cancer.
However, colorectal cancer is preventable and highly curable when detected early.
Here are a few things you can do to help lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Start a screening colonoscopy at 50 years old. Patients with family history should start at age 40, or 10 years before the age of diagnosis of a family member, and high-risk ethnic groups should start screening at 45 years of age.
- Eat a diet low in fat and high in fiber.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Quit smoking and using tobacco products.
- Exercise for 20 minutes, three to four times a week.
There are very few symptoms associated with early colorectal cancer so screening colonoscopies are essential for prevention as well as early detection. Colonoscopy is a painless procedure done under monitored sedation. If polyps (which most colon cancers arise from) are found on your colonoscopy, they often can be removed at that time. If colorectal cancer is found on your colonoscopy, surgery is often required. Colorectal cancer found in an early stage is curable in 80-90% of patients and 91% of people diagnosed with the earliest stage of cancer are alive in 5 years. However, only 37% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed at this stage. The survival rate decreases when cancer is found in later stages. As the cancer grows, symptoms may develop. Symptoms include:
- Blood in the stool
- Change in bowel habits
- Abdominal discomfort like bloating, fullness, cramps or pain
- Weight loss
- New fatigue
There are some people who are at higher risk for colorectal cancer and should be screened younger than 45. This includes patients with a family history, inflammatory bowel diseases like Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s, ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer. African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in advanced stages. Colorectal cancer has increased 46% in African American men and 10% among African American women. Alaska Native women have the highest mortality from colorectal cancer of any other racial and ethnic group in the United States.Talk to your provider about the benefits of screening colonoscopies and how they help prevent and detect colon cancers early.
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