Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to highlight what it is, who may be at risk and what you can do for yourself and others. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined, and the third most common cancer in the U.S.¹ It’s important to talk about colon health, take the next steps to screen for colon cancers and take care of yourself and others!
About colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancers are cancers of the colon, rectum or both. This cancer may start off as polyps or abnormal growths that may become cancerous if not found and treated.² There aren’t always symptoms, so screenings are important. If there are symptoms, they may include:³
- Blood in or on stool
- Stomach cramps
- Rapid, unexpected weight loss
Who is affected?
Colorectal cancer can occur in both men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.⁴ Even though it is more common in people over the age of 50, it can occur in younger age groups, as well. Risk factors include family history of colorectal cancer, personal history of polyps, obesity and smoking.⁵
Prevention tips and screening information
The good news is, colon cancer is one of the most treatable and preventable cancers, so screening and early detection are key.⁶ If you are 50 or older, it’s important to maintain regular screenings. If you have a family history, you may be advised to start screens at an early age.
Lifestyle changes can also help prevention, including:⁷
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
It is recommended that adults aged 50–75 get regular colorectal screenings. However, depending on your personal and family history, it may be good to go earlier. Screening methods can include a colonoscopy, which is typically done every 10 years; a CT colonography, usually done every 5 years; or in-home screening kits or stool tests done once a year. Talk to your doctor about which type of screening would work best for you.⁸
In-home screening kits are a preventive measure that can be used in between colonoscopy screenings. The in-home kits may be available through your healthcare provider and allow you to screen in the privacy of your own home. It is still important to consult your doctor and talk about what is right for you.
- “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, last accessed February 11, 2019, https://health.gov/news/category/national-health-observances.
- “What Colorectal Cancer Is, and Where It Starts,” Colorectal Cancer Alliance, last accessed February 11, 2019, https://www.ccalliance.org/colorectal-cancer-information/what-is-colorectal-cancer.
- “Colorectal Cancer Awareness,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed February 11, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/resources/features/colorectalawareness/index.htm.
- “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.”
- “Colorectal (Colon) Cancer,” Healthline, last accessed February 11, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/colon-cancer#risk-factors.
- “Colorectal (Colon) Cancer.”
- “Colorectal Cancer Awareness.”
- “Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed February 12, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/screening/tests.htm.