Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 140,000 Americans get colorectal cancer each year and over 50,000 people die from it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way because colorectal cancer is also one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer.
Screenings and Prevention are Key
There’s no better way to deal with colorectal cancer than by catching it early or, ideally, preventing it from ever happening in the first place. On average, a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23, and 90 percent of new cases are diagnosed in people 50 years or older.
Getting a screening can save lives because it can find precancerous polyps — abnormal growths in the colon or rectum — that doctors can remove before they develop into cancer. Even if they have become cancerous, regular screenings also detect colorectal cancer at an early stage, which is when treatment is most effective. This early diagnosis and treatment results in a five-year survival rate in cases found in the earlier stages of about 90 percent, compared to 14 percent for colorectal cancer found later on, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally and regular screenings are recommended for those over the age of 50.
Outside of those screenings, living a healthy lifestyle can also help to prevent many diseases and health issues, possibly including. This means eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; avoiding tobacco; limiting alcohol use; and getting plenty of exercise while maintaining a healthy weight.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
Screenings are so important because polyps that become colorectal cancer may be small and produce few symptoms early on. However, there are several you should know.
The Mayo Clinic notes that these signs and symptoms include: a change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks; rectal bleeding or bloody stool; persistent gas or abdominal cramps or pain; the feeling that bowels don’t completely empty; weakness, fatigue or unexplained weight loss
If you notice any symptoms of colon cancer, call your doctor and make an appointment as soon as possible. Also, talk to your doctor about when it is time for you to screen for colon cancer.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and There’s Help Nearby
About one-third of adults in the U.S. age 50 or older, or about 22 million people, have not been screened as recommended. It’s always a good time to spread awareness about colorectal cancer and encourage loved ones to get screened, but every March brings a concentrated effort to inform the public and get people in for screenings, especially those who’ve never done it before.
Physicians, health care organizations and everyday citizens across the country spend the month working to spread awareness, create dialogue and get people in for screenings because through research and education about prevention, screening, and treatment, it is possible to prevent colorectal cancer in many Americans.
Billings Clinic offers a skilled multi-disciplinary team to help diagnose and treat colorectal cancers and keep patients close to home while receiving quality, compassionate care. The team includes physicians, nurses and other care providers from gastroenterology, endoscopy, radiology and medical and radiation oncology, and a dietician and genetic counselor.
For more information or to make an appointment for a colon cancer screening, call 406-238-2500 or go to www.billingsclinic.com.
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