Did you know that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month?
This initiative's mission is to bring Colorectal Cancer to everyone's attention and to push action toward prevention, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. This month, it is important to spread the word and let people know that they should start getting screened for colorectal cancer by the age of 50 to kick-start prevention.
What is colorectal cancer?
According to MedlinePlus, colorectal cancer develops when tumors form in the lining of the large intestine where the colon and rectum are located. Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as a growth - a polyp - which forms on the colon or rectum's inner wall. These polyp's can become cancerous over time, but the sooner they are found and removed, the better the chances of preventing colorectal cancer are.
Who is affected by it?
Colorectal Cancer is fourth most common cancer in the country, according to the ODPHP, and it is also the second leading cause of death due to cancer. It can affect people of any gender, race and ethnic group, and often begins to develop in people aged 50 and above. Having a history of poor health in the family may pose a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer as well. Some other the risk factors include:
- Colon or rectum cancer in the family
- Hereditary conditions - familial adenomatous polyposis and nonpoulposis colon cancer
- Personal history of the following cancers: Rectum, colon, ovary, breast or endometrium.
- History of polyps developing in the colon or rectum
- History of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Colorectal cancer symptoms may go unnoticed in the early stages, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, but as the disease progresses, the symptoms may be easier to recognize and could severely increase with time. Colorectal cancer symptoms can be broken down into two different categories: local and systematic.
Local colorectal cancer symptoms
The local symptoms of colorectal cancer are the ones that have an immediate effect on only the rectum or colon. These signs include:
- Changes in bowel habits
- Bleeding from the rectum or finding blood in stool
- Unusual bloating, cramping and discomfort.
Systemic colorectal cancer symptoms
Unlike local colorectal cancer symptoms, systemic signs have an effect on the entire body. These signs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Severe weight loss
Ways to prevent colorectal cancer
When it comes to reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, screenings are highly recommended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A screening can find precancerous polyps which can then be removed immediately to keep them from turning into cancerous growths. It is suggested to start getting screened at the age of 50 for colorectal cancer and polyps.
Other ways people can reduce their chances of developing colorectal cancer include limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco use and increasing time spent dedicated to physical activity. It is suggested that adults spend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and two or more days dedicated to muscle strengthening activity. Not only can this reduce the chance of developing cancers, but it can boost the immune system and enhance overall health and well-being.
Understanding the severity of colorectal cancer is the first step, now it's time to spread the word about the cancer to reduce its chance of developing worldwide. Raising awareness is a huge step that goes unnoticed and can get people proactive about their health. If you want to get involved and spread the word about colorectal cancer this month, the ODPHP suggested:
Encouraging your family to exercise as a team - Staying physically active can help reduce the risk of colon cancer, and it can get the family up and moving together!
Bring awareness to doctors - Explain the initiative to them and ask them to spread the word to patients over 50 about getting screened for colorectal cancer.
Talk to the community - Whether it is family members, friends or neighbors over 50, explain the importance of getting screened and how it could reduce their chances of developing colon cancer. A little talk goes a long way and could help dozens maximize their overall health.