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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – Time to Get Screened

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – Time to Get Screened

Written by Ishwarya Thyagarajan, Masters in Development
Medically Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on March 19, 2019 at 6:12 PM
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  • The month of March is observed as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
  • Colorectal cancer is treatable, which occurs in the colon or rectum or both
  • It is the second leading cause of cancer death and third most common cancer in the U.S
  • Early detection makes it highly treatable through surgery and chemotherapy

The month of March every year is dedicated to colorectal cancer awareness and the importance of preventive measures, screening and treatment of the cancer is highlighted. A dark blue awareness ribbon is associated with colorectal cancer awareness.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that is potentially fatal, but treatable.
  • Cancer has been identified as the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
  • The American Cancer Society has estimated that 50,260 will die from this disease and 95,520 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 39,910 with rectal cancer
Cancer begins as a clump of cells known as polyps in the lining of the colon or rectum. These polyps over time, with age, may turn cancerous. Hence, early detection using appropriate screening techniques for the removal of pre-cancerous polyps is recommended to prevent the development of cancer.

Colorectal Cancer - Prevention

Prevention remains the most important and cost-effective approach to control all forms of cancer. Eating well, eating right, exercising, knowing and understanding family history, avoiding alcohol and tobacco are strategies recommended to keep cancer at bay.

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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – Time to Get Screened

Though colorectal cancer is commonly found in people over 50 years of age, the proportion of cases diagnosed in those below 50 has been steadily increasing. African Americans and those with a first-degree relative having colorectal cancer are at a higher risk of developing cancer. It is recommended that people from this group start getting screened earlier and more frequently than the others.

Symptoms of Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer symptoms may include:
  • Change in bowel habits - diarrhea or constipation
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort - pain, cramps, feeling bloated
  • Rectal bleeding - blood in the stool
  • Fatigue and weakness - weight loss, nausea, vomiting
These symptoms may be associated with other health conditions as well and require a medical professional's opinion and should not be ignored. Pain is not one of the early signs of cancer and all adults over 50 years of age should get screened irrespective of the presence of the symptoms.

Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Getting screened is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. It is recommended that all men and women, irrespective of individual risk factors should start getting screened once they turn 45.

Early detection helps in preventing polyps from turning cancerous and in their timely removal.

The following are some of the screening methods used
  • Colonoscopy
  • recommended every 5-10 years
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT or iFBOT): required annually
  • Guaiac Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): annually
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: every 5 years
  • Virtual Colonoscopy: every 5 years
  • Stool DNA: every 3 years
  • Double Contrast Barium Enema: every 5-10 years

Treating Colorectal Cancer

Staging is the process that is used to determine the extent to which cancer has spread within the colon or rectum and to the other body parts. Staging helps in deciding the best treatment plan for a patient.

The following are the various stages of cancer and the treatment options available: 
  • In Stage 0, cancer has not moved from where it started - surgery
  • In Stage 1, cancer has begun to spread - surgery
  • In Stage 2, cancer has spread to nearby tissues - surgery/chemotherapy/radiation
  • In Stage 3, cancer has attacked the lymph nodes - surgery/chemotherapy/radiation
  • In Stage 4, cancer spread to distant parts of the body (commonly liver and lungs) - surgery/chemotherapy/radiation/ interventional radiology
This year's colorectal cancer awareness is about understanding the facts and not making assumptions

Families and caregivers play a vital role in helping a patient right from screening through all the stages. It is important to have a discussion with the family about getting screened for cancer this year.

References :
  1. Colorectal Cancer Info- (https://www.ccalliance.org/colorectal-cancer-information)
  2. Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month - (https://www.moh.gov.sa/en/HealthAwareness/healthDay/2019/Pages/HealthDay-2019-03-01-31.aspx )

Source: Medindia

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