March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, and while no cancer can be completely avoidable, the worst consequences of colorectal cancer are preventable if caught early enough.
This year more than 145,600 adults in the U.S. will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. While a colonoscopy is not a perfect test, it dramatically reduces both the risks of getting colon cancer and dying from the disease. There are other screening tests available, but the colonoscopy remains the gold standard. Any screening, though, is better than none.
Most early colorectal cancers produce no symptoms. This is why screening for colorectal cancer is so important. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately: new onset of abdominal pain; blood in stool or change in stool shape; change in bowel habits.
March 6 is dress in blue day for colorectal cancer awareness. If you see me this Friday, you will see that I will be wearing blue, letting the world know that I have joined the mission to end colorectal cancer.
If you have not been screened, make it a priority to visit with your primary care physician to talk about scheduling your screening. Do it not only for yourself, but for those you love.
Below are some fundamentals that will encourage you to pay keen attention to this issue:
• Colorectal cancer, second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, affects men and women equally. Yet few Americans know that colorectal cancer can be prevented — not just detected — through colonoscopy.
• Colorectal cancer arises from precancerous growths or polyps that
grow in the colon. When detected early, polyps can be removed, halting their progression to colorectal cancer. While early detection of any cancer is
important, prevention is powerful.
• Many people don’t realize that this second-leading cancer killer is highly preventable. Unlike other cancer screenings which can only detect a problem, colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopy can prevent colorectal cancer by removing precancerous polyps during the exam.
• There is too little use of proven screening tests — especially among Medicare beneficiaries: One in 3 adults — almost 23 million Americans between 50 and 75 years old — is not getting tested for colorectal cancer as recommended.
• According to the American Cancer Society, the colon cancer death rate in this country could be cut in half if Americans simply followed recommended screening guidelines. This year, more than 53,000 people are expected to die of colorectal cancer in the United States.
• The digestive health specialists from the American College of Gastroenterology urge you to be screened for colorectal cancer.
• Talk to your doctor about the screening test that is right for you. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends colonoscopy as the preferred cancer prevention strategy.
• African Americans are likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at younger ages than Caucasians, and they experience decreased survival compared with Caucasians. It is recommended that African Americans begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45, rather than at age 50 for average-risk patients. JN
Bob Roth is the managing partner of Cypress HomeCare Solutions.