March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. when men and women are combined, but it doesn't have to be. When adults get screened for colorectal cancer, it can be detected early when treatment is most likely to be successful, and in many cases, it can be prevented altogether. About 1 in 3 adults ages 50 and older – about 38 million people – are not getting tested as recommended. Compounding the problem is that there is an alarming new trend in which colorectal cancer is rising in adults under 55.
Screening can save lives but only if people get tested. We know screening is working. Deaths from colorectal cancer have dropped by over 30% in the U.S. among adults 50 and older in the last 15 years, in large part due to screening. Further, people need to know that symptoms such as weight loss and blood in the stool – regardless of age – are a cause for concern and must be reported to their doctor, along with any family history of the disease. Read more about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.
You also can do other things to reduce your risk: eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; maintain a healthy weight; don't smoke; exercise regularly; and limit alcohol (no more than 2 drinks a day for men, 1 for women).
What can you do to save lives in March?
Spread the word that there are several screening options available, including simple take-home options. If you are 50 and older, or have a family history of the disease, talk to your doctor about which test is best for you. The most commonly used screening tests are: Fecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT) or Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) every year. or colonoscopy every 10 years (or more often if adenomatous polyps (adenomas) have previously been found). Newer tests such as Stool DNA and CT Colonography are also now among recommended options. Learn more here about each test. You also can find videos on cancer.org that explain various tests.
Preventing colon cancer or finding it early doesn't have to be expensive. There are simple, affordable tests available and most health insurance plans cover lifesaving preventive tests. If you experience symptoms, such as blood in your stool or unexplained weight loss, see your doctor as these could be signs of colorectal cancer.