March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. No one wants to talk about it; but colorectal cancer screening saves lives. If you’re 50 years old or older, talk to your doctor about getting screened.
Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, among cancers that affect both men and women, in the U.S. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. But this disease is highly preventable, by getting screened beginning at age 50.
About 1 in 3 adults between 50 and 75 years old–about 23 million people–are not getting tested as recommended.
What You Can Do
- If you’re aged 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer. Screenings help prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps so they can be removed. Screening also finds this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective.
- Be physically active.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol.
- Don’t smoke.
- Risk increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people aged 50 and older.
- Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include—
- Blood in or on the stool.
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
- Losing weight and you don’t know why.
- These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.
- Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at high risk, talk to your doctor about when and how often to get tested.
There are several screening test options. Talk with your doctor about which is right for you.
- Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (every year).
- Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years, with FOBT every three years).
Mercy Health System has joined with more than 1,000 organizations who have pledged to work together to increase the nation’s colorectal cancer screening rates and embrace the goal of reaching 80% screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.
80% by 2018 was developed through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCR) initiative with the goal of screening 80% of those aged 50 and older for colorectal cancer by the year 2018. The NCCR was co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If we can achieve 80% by 2018, 277,000 fewer people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 203,000 lives will be saved by 2030.
Across the country, approximately 1 in 3 adults, around 23 million people aged 50 and 75 years old are not getting screened for colorectal cancer as recommended. Within the Mercy Health System service area alone, 33% of adults have not received colorectal screenings in the past 10 years.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention