We are making progress in the war against colorectal cancer. Death rates from the disease have been dropping since the early 1990s, and incidence rates have been declining steadily over the past decade in both men and women. These are great strides that can be attributed to prevention and early detection through screening and increasingly effective treatment.
However, there is still more to be done.
Many people do not realize that simply aging can make you more at risk for developing colon cancer and that early colon cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms. But there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for the disease. Colorectal cancer is one of only a few cancers that can be prevented because colorectal cancer screening allows doctors to find and remove hidden growths (called “polyps”) before they become cancer. Removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether.
In fact, researchers believe that half of colorectal cancer deaths could potentially be prevented if everyone age 50 and older received recommended screenings.* Mercy Health System supports National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month every March. So what can you do to make a difference?
- Once you turn 50 it is important that you talk to your doctor about getting screened regularly for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor sooner if you have a family history of the disease or other condition that puts you at increased risk.
- Take the time to learn the facts about colorectal cancer. Visit www.NCCRT.org for information and links to resources.
- Talk to your friends and family about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 and other ways to help prevent the disease, like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating less red meat, and consuming alcohol in moderation or not at all. You can help save lives.
- Wear the Blue Star, which represents the eternal memory of those whose lives have been lost to colorectal cancer and the shining hope for a future free of the disease. Contact groups like the Colon Cancer Alliance, Fight Colorectal Cancer or the American Cancer Society to get Blue Star pins and show your support.
- Each time you see the Blue Star, remember and share the facts—colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable.
*Colditz G., Atwood K., Emmons K., et al, For the Risk Index Working Group, Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention. Harvard Report on Cancer Prevention
Volume 4: Harvard Cancer Risk Index. Cancer Causes Control. 2000;11(6):477-488