There are many leading causes of death, chief among them is cancer. Among the cancers specifically, the third most common, and second leading cause of death is colorectal cancer. This is one of many reasons March is recognized as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Affecting people of all races and ages, the goal is to spread awareness while encouraging people to take preventable actions to help reduce the development of this cancer.
In 2017, FightColorectalCancer.org shared a document highlighting a few facts about colorectal cancer:
- 1/20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer
- People with a first-degree relative with colon cancer are between 2-3 times more likely to develop this cancer
- 25% of people diagnosed have a family history
- 1/3 people are not up to date on their colorectal cancer screenings
- 23 million people have not been screened
- 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could have been prevented
- Evidence shows that screening tests reduced the number of colorectal cancer cases and deaths
Before discussing the screenings, it’s important to also identify some signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer. Though many can be caused from other conditions or go unnoticed, with the help of the American Cancer Society we’ve identified a few symptoms to look out for.
- Change in bowel habits (E.g. diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool)
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Feeling that you need to have a bowl movement, but aren’t relieved by one
- Blood in the stool
- Weakness and fatigue or unintentional weight loss
Though most of these cases happen over the age of 50, if you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to visit your doctor immediately. Additionally, one of the best ways to lower your risk of these symptoms is through screening tests. These tests can find polyps or other traces of colorectal cancer. The CDC recommended the four following screening tests:
- Stool Test – used to checked for blood in the stool; encouraged every 1-3 years.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – used to check for polyps inside rectum and lower colon; encouraged every 5 years
- Colonoscopy – similar to the previous tests, used as a follow up to search for anything unusual found in previous test; encouraged every 10 years
- CT Colonography – a virtual colonoscopy used to produce images of entire colon; encouraged every 5 years.
As you see there’s many tests that serve different purposes. However, to discover which test is best for you, be sure to speak with your doctor. Not only will they best analyze the test most suitable for you, but they can also aid in forming a timetable that keeps you up to date with your screenings and thus keeping you healthy.