March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness MonthMar 16th, 2011 | By Kim Harrison | Category: Health
This month the Prevent Cancer Foundation is sponsoring National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign aims to increase public awareness and to urge legislators to support funding to ensure access to colorectal cancer screening and treatment.
Colorectal cancer affects the colon or rectum. It affects women as well as men. Each year it strikes over 142,500 people, and 51,400 die. It can be prevented by screening for polyps (grape-like growths on the wall of the intestine) and removing them before they become cancerous. Early detection offers the best chances for the easiest treatment. Surgery is the most common treatment. If the cancer has spread, chemotherapy or radiation may become necessary.
Regular screening for early detection is one of the most important keys to preventing colorectal cancer. Other prevention measures include:
- Staying physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking
- Moderating alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man
- Eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Eating less red meat and avoiding processed meat
Those most at risk for colorectal cancer include:
- People age 50 and older
- Overweight or obese people, especially those who carry fat around their waists
- People who aren’t physically active
- Excessive alcohol drinkers, especially men
- People who eat a lot of red meat (such as beef, pork or lamb) or processed meat (like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, or cold cuts)
- Those with personal or family histories of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
- Those with personal histories of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- Those with family histories of inherited colorectal cancer or inherited colorectal problems
If you’re at average risk for colorectal cancer, you should start getting screened at age 50. If you’re at higher risk, you may need to start regular screening earlier and have it more frequently. If you’re over 75, ask your doctor if you should continue screening.
It’s best to get screened before you have any symptoms. Early stages of colorectal cancer usually don’t display any visible symptoms. Later on these symptoms may arise:
- Bleeding from the rectum or blood in or on stool
- Changes in bowel habits
- Narrower stools than usual
- General abdominal problems, such as bloating, fullness, or cramps
- Diarrhea, constipation, or a feeling that bowel movements aren’t complete
- Weight loss for no obvious reason
- Feeling tired all the time
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, see your health care professional.