March was officially designated as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in February 2000, by President Bill Clinton. In early 1999, Jay Monahan, NBC News legal analyst and husband of Today anchor, Katie Couric, lost his battle with colon cancer. He was 42 years old. His death helped bring a spotlight to colon cancer, the ‘silent killer’ that was seldom talked about at the time.
In spite of 20+ years of awareness, colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer or rectal cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for men and women combined. In 2021, an estimated 149,500 people in the US will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. When caught early (stage one), it’s a very treatable cancer, with a 90% 5-year survival rate, yet only 38% of colorectal cancer is diagnosed at stage one. With routine screenings and healthy living, 68% of colorectal cancers could be prevented.
Knowing your risk factors, and the signs and symptoms can help catch the disease in its earliest stages. Some risk factors, like age, family history and genetics, and personal history of polyps or cancer, are outside of our control. However, there are several risk factors that are within our control: obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Eating a healthy, colorful diet of fruits and vegetables, and having an active lifestyle are things you can do to help lower your risk.
The American Cancer Society recommends screening for adults between the ages of 45–75, but anyone, at any age, can be screened. From 2012 – 2016, there has been an increase in younger people being diagnosed. Colorectal cancers often begin with no symptoms of signs, and by the time you experience symptoms, the disease is typically in later stages. Early detection can save your life – this cancer is very treatable when caught early.
So, eat the colors of the rainbow, enjoy an active lifestyle, and talk to your doctor about your risk factors and screening options.
Are you at risk for colorectal cancer? Take our colorectal cancer assessment to find out your risk factors: Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment
Halifax Health – Center for Oncology is a long-established and well-known leader in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. For more information, please visit: halifaxhealth.org/cancercare
Halifax Health – Primary Care has six convenient locations in Volusia County. Our team of specialized physicians can treat a wide variety of common conditions and illnesses, as well as provide you with information about routine screenings. To look for an office near you, please visit: halifaxhealth.org/primarycare
For more information about the symptoms and signs of colorectal cancer, visit the American Cancer Society
Written by Barbara Tiplady, March 10, 2021