March is designated as Colon Cancer Awareness Month
March 3, 2023
March is designated as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise public awareness about the importance of early detection and screening for colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and woman. The average lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 6%. Regular screening can often lead to early detection and improved outcomes, but many people are still not getting screened. In some cases, regular screening can even prevent cancer when a polyp is found during screening and removed before it progresses into cancer.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the colon and rectum. These organs play a crucial role in the digestive system, but when cells in these tissues grow and divide uncontrollably, they can form a cancerous tumor.
Why is screening important?
Screening for colorectal cancer is important because it can often detect the disease in its early stages, when it is most treatable. Screening can also help prevent the disease by finding and removing precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer.
There are several screening tests available for colorectal cancer, including stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is recommended for anyone starting at age 45, or earlier if they have a family history of the disease or other risk factors.
Risk factors for colorectal cancer:
There are several risk factors that can increase an individual's risk of developing colorectal cancer, including:
- Age: The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age, and most cases occur in people over 50 years old.
- Family history: Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps are at higher risk of developing the disease.
- Lifestyle factors: A diet high in red and processed meats, high in fat and low in fibers, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: Individuals with conditions such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
What is a colonoscopy:
Colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure used to examine the inside of the colon (large intestine) for abnormal growths, such as polyps or cancer.
The benefits of a colonoscopy include:
- Early detection: Colonoscopy can detect colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it is most treatable. It can also detect precancerous polyps, which can be removed during the same procedure.
- Improved outcomes: Early detection and removal of precancerous polyps through colonoscopy can significantly reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Comprehensive evaluation: Colonoscopy allows the doctor to examine the entire colon, which is not possible with other screening tests, such as stool tests. This comprehensive evaluation provides a more accurate diagnosis and can help the doctor determine the best course of treatment.
- Confirm symptoms: If you are experiencing symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits, a colonoscopy can help determine the cause of your symptoms and provide the appropriate treatment.
- Prevention: Colonoscopy can prevent colorectal cancer by removing precancerous polyps. It is recommended for people over the age of 45, or for those with a family history of colorectal cancer, to have a colonoscopy as a preventive measure.
- Peace of mind: Colonoscopy can provide peace of mind by ruling out the presence of colorectal cancer or other serious conditions.
In conclusion, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is an important time to raise public awareness about the importance of early detection and screening for colorectal cancer. By understanding the risk factors, symptoms and screening options, individuals can take steps to protect their health and reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer. By working together, we can help reduce the incidence and mortality rates of this disease.
Jean Salem, MD
General, Bariatric, Colon & Rectal Surgery at Saline Surgery and Weight Loss Clinic