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Colorectal Cancer is Something We Should All be Talking About

March 2, 2016 at 3:38 pm

What happens when I eat? Just the basics…
Before we dive into what colorectal cancer is, let’s go over what exactly we’re looking at here. Simply put – when you eat food, it arrives in the stomach to break down for a while. It then goes to the small intestine before passing through the large intestine (aka the colon), and eventually traveling through the rectum and then out – if you know what I mean.

What exactly is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is any cancer (growth, lump, tumor) of the colon and rectum. According to the Mayo Clinic, Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon) and rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancers.

What do the statistics say?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US in both men and women. The American Cancer Society estimates about 49,190 people in the US will die from colorectal cancer during 2016.

These aren’t the most promising statistics, but here’s the good news: colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and (when caught early enough) most treatable forms of cancer. The reason it is still so common is because many people don’t experience symptoms, especially in the beginning stages. The Mayo Clinic offers a complete list of signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.

This leads us to the #1, most important way you can prevent colorectal cancer – GET SCREENED! The earlier the better, and more treatable.
Tracy Barnes-Crawford, an RN at True Health tells us, “Colorectal screenings are recommended for all adults over the age of 50. A FIT test (Fecal Immunochemical Test) is recommended yearly and can be performed at all True Health locations. If indicated a flexible sigmoidoscopy is recommended every 5 years or a colonoscopy every 10 years. Patients requiring a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy are referred to a gastroenterology specialist.”

How do screenings save lives?
Screenings save lives because they catch abnormalities before they become cancer. “Almost all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Such polyps can be presented in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. They may not cause any symptoms. Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented. Screenings can also find colorectal cancer early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be most effective and lead to a cure.”  –  CDC, 2014

What will raise your risk of colorectal cancer?

  • Not getting screened. Screenings are the #1 way to prevent and treat colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking tobacco. Make your quit plan today – what better time than now?  
  • Diet high in red meat (beef, pork, lamb, and liver) and processed meat (hot dogs and lunch meat).
  • Lack of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
  • Lack of exercise and/or being overweight or obese.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption.

Risk factors that aren’t in your control…

  • Getting older. The older you get, the higher your risk is – over 90% of cases occur in people who are over the age of 50.
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or Type 2 Diabetes.
  • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.

Afraid of getting screened or just want to know more? Read colorectal cancer personal screening stories from real people telling their stories.

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