March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and what better way to celebrate than to encourage a loved one to get screened? According to the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), approximately one in three U.S. adults between the ages of 50 and 75 who should be screened for colorectal cancer have not been.
In a recent news release, Gregory G. Ginsberg, MD, FASGE, president of ASGE, stated: “Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers because the majority of colorectal cancers arise from precancerous growths in the colon called polyps, which can be found during a colonoscopy screening exam and removed before they turn into cancer.”
The Center for Disease Control reports that of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women. Being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, however, is by no means a death sentence! Especially if the cancer is detected early, then there are numerous options available for fighting this form of cancer.
Having a colonoscopy screening is never going to be a party, but it is a very simple procedure that can help detect colorectal cancer before it has advanced to a stage that is more difficult to treat. One or two days of discomfort is nothing compared to the ways in which a colonoscopy could make things easier for you in the long run.
How often you should be tested for colorectal cancer depends on a number of factors, including age and family history. Additionally, if you are demonstrating some symptoms of colorectal cancer – such as a change in bowel habits, constipation or diarrhea – talk with your doctor about what’s going on.
While many risk factors are beyond our control, there are a few lifestyle-related colorectal cancer risk factors that you can control. Many of these risk factors can help in avoiding other types of cancers, as well as simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Lifestyle-Related Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors
- Diet - Diets high in red and processed meats (e.g., beef, lamb, hot dogs) can increase your risk for developing colorectal cancer. Frying, grilling, broiling or other methods of cooking meats at very high temperatures create chemicals that may also contribute to an increased risk.
- Inactive Lifestyle - Individuals that live a sedentary lifestyle without physical activity have an increased chance of developing colorectal cancer.
- Obesity - Being overweight increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Smoking - Some of the cancer-causing substances associated with smoking are swallowed and can increase the risk of developing this disease.
- Alcohol Use - Heavy alcohol use can lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
This March, spread the word about Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and encourage friends and loved ones to get screened, especially if they demonstrate numerous risk factors and have never been screened before. Similarly to the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon, a blue ribbon can show your support and will get people talking.