Since 2000, March has been Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is very common, being the fourth most diagnosed form of cancer in the United States. It causes the second most deaths of cancers that affect both men and women. There are as many as 200,000 Americans diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, and more than 50,000 deaths. Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity to learn more about colon cancer, and find out if you should get yourself screened.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Noncancerous polyps can grow in the large intestine. These polyps do not trigger any symptoms, but if they are not removed, they can develop into cancer. Cancerous cells in the colon or rectum will divide without needing to, and can destroy the healthy cells that surround them. Colorectal cancer is sometimes referred to simply as colon cancer.
What causes colorectal cancer?
The exact causes of colon cancer are unknown, but there are a number of factors that have an affect on a person’s risk for developing colorectal cancer.
Age is a factor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90% of colorectal cancer is diagnosed in people over the age of 50. This doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear if you’re younger than 50, but it does mean that the older you are, the more diligent you should be about screenings.
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol has been linked with developing colon cancer.
Smoking will wreck your heart and lungs, and it can also increase your risk for colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is preventable.
Staying active can help reduce your risk of colon or rectal cancer. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day is important to your health, but it can help prevent colorectal cancer.
Your diet matters. Avoid processed foods and excessive amounts of red meat, especially processed meats. Diets that are high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber have been shown to reduce a person’s risk of colon cancer.
According to the U.S. Office of Health and Human services, 6 out of 10 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with regular screenings.
Screenings are important.
If you are between the ages of 50 and 75, you should get regular screenings for colorectal cancer. How regularly you should get tested depends on a few different factors. Those who are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer should be screened more regularly than those at a lower risk of colon or rectal cancer. There are also different types of screenings tests for colorectal cancer. Some tests require screenings every 1 or 2 years, while others are done every 5 to 10 years.
Talk to your doctor or a specialist about options for colorectal screening. Here are some questions about colorectal cancer screenings that you may want to consider asking your physician. MANA gastroenterologists provide colorectal cancer screenings in the endoscopy center at Fayetteville Diagnostic Clinic. Some insurance plans may require a referral from your primary care physician.