As March comes to a close, so does Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Most people know someone living with this type of cancer and if not they know someone who has had the screening done. Each year the state is petitioned to “proclaim” March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Governor Paul LePage sent a letter to help spread the word about colorectal cancer prevention and treatment. “This serious cancer can be prevented through early screening and detection. The death rate from this disease could drop by 70 percent if a majority of citizens in the United States were regularly screened for colorectal cancer.”
Colorectal cancer (term used for both colon cancer and rectal cancers) is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States among both men and women.
There are over one million colorectal cancer survivors in the U.S. Although it’s a common cancer, it’s also a preventable cancer. Proper colon screening can reduce or eliminate the risk of colon cancer occurrence. Know the signs and symptoms, and the risk factors.
Anyone age 50 or older, those experiencing symptoms of colon cancer or individuals at high risk need to be screened, according to www.fightcolorectalcancer.org, a non-profit organization that many with the disease use for information, including some of the information in this article.
The American Cancer Society believes that preventing colorectal cancer (and not just finding it early) should be a major reason for getting tested. Having their polyps found and removed keeps some people from getting colorectal cancer. Tests that have the best chance of finding both polyps and cancer are preferred if these tests are available and the patient is willing to have them.
Beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should use one of the screening tests below:
Tests that find polyps and cancer
Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*
Colonoscopy every 10 years
Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*
CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*
Tests that mainly find cancer
Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
Stool DNA test (sDNA) every 3 years
*Colonoscopy should be done if test results are positive.
People can not control some risks like age, personal history of polyps of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disorders or genetic conditions. They can also not help family history. Risks that can be controlled are lifestyle (low physical activity, obesity, smoking and heavy alcohol use) and diet (avoid a diet high in red meats, processed meats and fats). To decrease colorectal risk don’t smoke, increase physical activity, avoid overall body fat, increase foods that contain dietary fiber, include garlic in your diet, drink milk and add calcium.
Many people may not know that Maine offers a program to pay for screening (colonoscopy) for those that qualify (http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/ccc/colorectal.shtml). FMI, visit www.fightcolorectalcancer.com or check with a doctor.
Symptoms of Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer
Although the signs can vary, common symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:
No signs or symptoms at all
A change of bowel habits
Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
Stools that are narrower than usual
Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
Weight loss for no known reason
Feeling very tired