March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Know More About It
The month of March is dedicated to Colorectal Cancer Awareness, which promotes disease education and early screening. Colorectal cancer typically starts as a polyp in the rectum or colon and can be prevented through removal.
The National Cancer Institute reports that this type of cancer ranks third in prevalence in the United States. Federal estimates suggest that around 52,580 individuals in the United States died of colorectal cancer in 2022. Despite being preventable cancer, it is the second biggest cause of cancer-related deaths in the country, following lung cancer.
In addition to screening, the awareness campaign also emphasizes healthy lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of developing any of the three types (colon, rectum, or anus) of colorectal cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer predicts a significant increase in colorectal cancer cases and deaths by 2040, especially in countries with high human development indexes.
The article aims to inform readers about the critical aspects of colorectal cancer in honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Colorectal Cancer: Who is at risk?
- According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer affects both genders but is more prevalent in men.
- It is most frequently diagnosed between ages 65 and 74, and individuals of African-American descent are at higher risk. The median age of diagnosis in the US is 66, and 78 percent of new diagnoses are people aged 55 and above.
- Colorectal cancer has a genetic element, and those with a family history of the disease are at higher risk.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mentions that individuals with inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop colon or rectal cancer.
- People with a family history of polyps or cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, inherited syndromes that increase cancer risk or type 2 diabetes is at greater risk and may require earlier or more frequent screening.
What is the screening process for colorectal cancer?
Screening for cancer is the process of detecting it before symptoms develop, which can lead to early diagnosis and easier treatment.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people at an average risk of colon cancer receive a colonoscopy every 5-10 years starting at age 45. Three main types of screening tests for colorectal cancer include:
- The first type of colorectal cancer screening involves using a camera to examine the bowels, similar to a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
- The second type of screening involves doctors testing the stool for signs of cancer, such as through fecal occult blood tests or stool DNA tests.
- The third type of screening is a virtual colonoscopy, which uses a series of imaging tests to create a virtual picture of the lining of the bowel.
What are the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer?
- The first symptom of colorectal cancer is often a change in bowel movements, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrow stools that last for more than a few days.
- A feeling of an urgent need to have a bowel movement that will not go away after having one may also indicate colorectal cancer.
- Bright red rectal bleeding or dark brown/black stool due to blood in it are also symptoms of colorectal cancer.
- Cramping or pain in the abdominal (belly) region is another symptom.
- Fatigue, weakness, and unintended weight loss may also be signs of colorectal cancer
How can you reduce the risk of colorectal cancer?
Certain lifestyle factors can be considered in addition to regular screenings with a doctor to reduce the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, quitting smoking and excessive alcohol use can cut colon cancer risk.
- Being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight are also recommended to decrease the chances of colorectal cancer.
- Additionally, precancerous growths called polyps should be removed to prevent the abnormal cells from progressing to cancer. This can be done through colonoscopy screening, which can prevent colorectal cancer by removing the precancerous polyps found during the procedure. The screening can also detect colorectal cancers at early stages when successful treatment is more likely.
- It's strongly recommended to include more whole grains in the diet (3 servings per day) and cut back on red meat, such as beef and pork, while reducing alcohol intake. These dietary changes can significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
What can be done to raise awareness?
Although colorectal cancer accounts for around 50,000 deaths yearly, the death rate has decreased steadily since the 1980s, thanks to increased awareness efforts.
To participate in National Colon Cancer Awareness Month this March:
- You can donate to organizations supporting colon cancer awareness.
- Wear a dark blue ribbon to show support for those affected by colon cancer.
- Start a conversation with friends and family about the importance of colon cancer screenings, or share your story if you're a survivor, caregiver, or have lost a loved one to the disease.
- This month-long observance aims to encourage patients, survivors, and caregivers to share their stories, advocate for colorectal cancer prevention, and raise awareness about the importance of early detection.
- The dark blue ribbons and clothes worn in March serve as a reminder to start discussions about colon cancer awareness.
Although lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight are important for cancer prevention and overall health, they cannot replace cancer screenings.
Colon cancer can develop for years without causing symptoms, so it's crucial to detect and remove precancerous polyps through regular screening tests at least once every ten years.
It's essential to discuss with your doctor what screening tests they recommend and how often, especially if you have an increased risk due to a family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.
As a member of MedPRO, our physicians can assist you in taking the necessary steps to take care of your health. Our primary care physicians are committed to providing high-quality and accessible health care and can guide you through the process. To learn more, please get in touch with our team at 866-423-0060 or visit our website at www.cvmedpro.com
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