March is National Colorectal Cancer Month. It’s a time to raise awareness about one of the most common cancers that affect both men and women. It also has one of the highest survival rates if detected early enough.
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 106,000 new cases of colon cancer and nearly 45,000 new cases of rectal cancer in 2022. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women.
We’ve put together some information about the causes, risks, and steps for preventing colorectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Defined
Colorectal cancer is also known as just colon cancer. It’s a disease occurring in the colon or the rectum, which is the passage from the colon to the anus.
It’s often thought of as amen’s health issuebecause men are more likely to develop colorectal cancer, though it does affect both men and women.
Colon cancer starts with abnormal growths called polyps. These can become cancerous eventually. There is an excellent chance of survival if they are detected early enough. They can become cancerous when they’re not detected. The cancer will spread quickly to other parts of the body if left untreated.
Doctors recommend everyone over the age of 50 get screened. Those with a family history of colon cancer should be screened more frequently.
There often aren’t any symptoms for colorectal cancer until it starts to spread. That is why screening is so important. Symptoms may include:
- A noticeable change in bowel habits lasting four weeks or more
- Bloody bowel movements
- Enduring stomach pain or cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
See your doctor as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms, especially those related to your bathroom habits.
The Risk Factors
Some risk factors are unavoidable while others are within your control.
Age — which you can’t control — is the number one risk factor for colon cancer. Nine out of 10 colorectal cancer cases occur in people 50 or older.
Other risk factors include:
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- Certain genetic/inherited abnormalities such as Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), and others
Let your doctor know if you have these risk factors. They may recommend earlier or more frequent testing.
Living a healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward cutting your risk of colon cancer. It can also lower your risk against other cancers, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, and more.
- Losing just a few pounds, if you’re overweight, can help cut your risks.
- Heavy drinkingincreases the risk, so cut back on alcohol.
- Stop smoking or using tobacco as it increases the risk of all types of cancer.
- Get morecardiovascular exercise, like daily walks.
- Replace hot dogs, lunchmeat, and red meat with lean chicken and fish.
- Eating a diet rich infresh fruits and vegetablescan decrease the risk for colon cancer.
Schedule a Checkup!
The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionrecommends regular screenings beginning at age 50,for those without special health concerns or a family history of colon issues. Screenings should continue until age 75.Screenings are some of the best protections against many types of cancer. Adults between the ages of 76 and 85 should get screened only when directed by a doctor.
There are several different ways to test for colorectal cancer. Your doctor will recommend the best option for you based on your health history, current risk factors, and personal preferences.
Some tests, like the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), are done once a year, and can even be done in your own home withno special preparation.
A colonoscopy is a more invasive screening but is only performed once every 10 years.
In many cases, colorectal cancer screenings are covered at no cost by most health coverage plan
We're Here to Serve You
Come to AltaMed to get screened, especially if you’ve been putting it off. You may be able to get a FIT kit by mail, but you should still come in. Call us at (888) 499-9303 to learn more and schedule an appointment.