March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to educate the public about the importance of screening for this common and often preventable cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer deaths. In 2023, it’s estimated that 153,020 individuals will receive a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, a largely preventable disease. These individuals will join the over 1.4 million currently living with or have survived the disease.
Despite this, many people are not getting screened regularly, putting themselves at risk. Here’s a look into the risks of colorectal cancer and what can be done to prevent it.
Know the Symptoms
Colorectal cancer often starts as a small growth called a polyp, which can develop into cancer over time. In the early stages, colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, which is why screening is so important. However, as the cancer progresses, some common symptoms may include:
- Rectal bleeding: Bright red blood in the stool, toilet paper, or toilet bowl.
- Changes in bowel habits: Long lasting diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty.
- Abdominal pain: Pain in the abdomen, particularly in the lower left side.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired or weak due to anemia caused by rectal bleeding.
- Unexpected weight loss: Losing weight without trying.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screening at age 45. However, people with a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors may need to start screening earlier.
Several screening tests are available for colorectal cancer, including fecal occult blood tests, stool DNA tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography. The appropriate test for an individual is determined by their age, risk factors, and personal preferences, with the guidance of a healthcare provider. Screening tests can detect colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps before they cause symptoms, making it easier to treat.
Reduce Your Risk
Colorectal cancer is a highly preventable disease, and there are several steps individuals can take to reduce their risk. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent colorectal cancer. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in red meat and processed foods can help reduce the risk. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking are also important for reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.
Another way to prevent colorectal cancer is by removing precancerous polyps during a screening test. If these polyps are detected, doctors can remove them before they become cancer, effectively preventing the disease.
Regular screening is also an effective way to prevent colorectal cancer. By detecting the disease early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Early detection and treatment are crucial to reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.
There are many ways to get involved and raise awareness during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Some of the most effective ways include:
Share Information on Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for spreading awareness and educating people about colorectal cancer. Share information and resources on your personal and professional accounts, and use hashtags like #ColorectalCancerAwarenessMonth and #ScreenForLife #DressInBlueDay to reach a wider audience.
Organize a Community Event
Host a community event, such as a walk or run, to raise awareness and funds for colorectal cancer research. You can also participate in events organized by local hospitals, advocacy groups, and nonprofits.
Wearing blue is a simple and effective way to show support for colorectal cancer awareness. Encourage friends, family, and coworkers to join in and wear blue on designated days during the month.
National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of screening for this common and often preventable cancer. By getting screened regularly, making lifestyle changes, and being aware of the symptoms, you can help protect yourself and those you love.
Get Tested for Colorectal Cancer at Premier Family Medical
Premier Family Medical is a top-ranked provider of colonoscopy services for patients throughout the Utah County area. Schedule an appointment today if you are due for a screening or have questions about your risk. We care about your health and want to protect you against colorectal cancer.