National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and as the third most diagnosed form of cancer, it is time to give this disease the attention it deserves. Every year doctors discover over 97,000 new cases of colon cancer and more than 43,000 cases of rectal cancer. While colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States, early detection and revolutionary treatments are providing better chances than ever of surviving this disease. Here is everything you need to know to stay informed:
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a form of cancer found in either the colon and/or rectum. These organs are key parts of our digestive system. The colon, often simply called the “large intestine,” helps us with digestion by extracting water and salt from the food we eat. At the end of this process, whatever waste that remains moves to the rectum, where it is stored until it is ready to pass from the body.
In most cases, colorectal cancer begins its formation as a polyp or small growth on any area of the colon or rectum. While not all polyps in the digestive system are colorectal cancer, those that are larger than 1 cm, or those that occur in groups, are at an increased risk of turning into the disease.
Cancer-causing polyps form on the innermost layer of the large intestine, however, in serious cases, the polyps can grow deep into the digestive lining, possibly reaching the bloodstream or other organs. A medical consultation report will describe the stage the cancer has reached based on its growth at the time of diagnosis.
What are the Risks for Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer shares many risk factors with other forms of cancer, including:
High intake of red or processed meat
Frequent use of alcohol
Low activity level
History of colorectal polyps
A family history of colorectal cancer
Irritable bowel syndrome
African-American or Eastern European Jewish descent
Men and women are both at risk for the disease, and while colorectal cancer is primarily found in individuals over 50 years of age, those who are younger are not completely safe. Many risk factors like age and genetics cannot be controlled, so it is important to rely on an otherwise healthy lifestyle and health and wellness services like preventative screening to keep you safe.
What Can You Do?
Health screening companies offer a variety of early detection methods when it comes to colorectal cancer. Early detection can save lives by diagnosing cancer in its earliest stages (leading to faster treatment), and may prevent the development of the disease before it starts. While a colonoscopy is one of the most popular options for screening, other methods such as a CT colonography (a topography taken via x-ray), and point of care tests like the fecal occult blood test or stool DNA test are available too.
According to the American Cancer Society, among the population of individuals who should be receiving routine screening for colorectal cancer, at least 1 in 3 have never done so. This is a staggering statistic given the importance and ease of early detection. Although research and technology have decreased the number of people dying from colorectal cancer, 50,630 deaths are still expected to occur this year alone. Health and wellness companies have many tools to help you watch for early signs of the disease and can help you get your lifestyle risk factors under control. Do your part this March to know where you stand with colorectal cancer.