By American Cancer Society
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to consider the potentially lifesaving actions we can all take to prevent and detect this disease. Colorectal cancer is a major public health concern: it is the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined. But it’s important to remember that this is a disease we can do something about.
In 2017, there will be an estimated 2,860 new cases of colon and rectal cancers diagnosed in Missouri and 1,170 new cases diagnosed in Kansas.
Of those new cases, 1,070 in Missouri and 470 in Kansas are estimated to die.
5 Things You Should Know
Colon cancer is preventable and below are the five things you should know about colon cancer; it could save your life!
Screening can not only detect colorectal cancer at its earliest and most treatable stage, it can actually prevent cancer altogether. Colonoscopy can detect pre-cancerous polyps – and remove them on the spot before they have the chance to become cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults at average risk begin screening at age 50.
There is more than one type of screening test.
If you think that colonoscopy is synonymous with colorectal cancer screening, you’re not alone. It is a common misconception that this procedure, where a thin, flexible tube is inserted into the rectum to examine the entire colon, is either the only available screening test or the “gold standard.” While this is a popular and highly effective screening test, not everyone is comfortable with this kind of invasive procedure. Fortunately, there are options, including simple tests that check for blood in the stool – like the fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical tests (FIT). So which is best? Talk to your doctor about which option is right for you.
Know your family history.
Colorectal cancer may fall just shy of the top ten list of things you’d like to discuss with your parents. However, a simple conversation with your family could be a powerful tool for preventing this disease. This is because anyone with a first-degree relative – a parent, sibling, or child – who had colorectal cancer is at increased risk for developing the disease. The risk is even higher if that relative was diagnosed with cancer when they were younger than 45, or if more than one first-degree relative is affected. In these cases, screening may need to begin earlier than age 50.
Lifestyle factors can affect your risk.
While screening is the most valuable tool for preventing colorectal cancer, there are a number of lifestyle factors linked to increased risk of developing the disease that are well within our control. For example, research has shown that being overweight or obese increases your risk for developing or dying of colorectal cancer, while being physically active actually may lower your risk of developing the disease. Colorectal cancer has also been linked to smoking, heavy alcohol use, and diets that are high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (such as hot dogs and some luncheon meats).
Certain genetic mutations
can increase your risk too.
It’s estimated that about five percent of people who develop colorectal cancer have an inherited genetic mutation. The most common of these defects are Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). If you have one of these mutations, your average lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is substantially higher than that of someone without the mutation. Because people with these syndromes are also at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer at younger ages, they should begin screening before age 50. While genetic testing is a personal decision, consider this option with the guidance of your doctor.
80% by 2018
A nationwide effort called “80% by 2018” is currently underway to achieve an 80% colorectal cancer screening rate by the year 2018. The campaign is led by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), an organization co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control, and has recruited the help of 1,300 organizations across the country thus far. For more information on colorectal cancer and screening options, visit cancer.org.