March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
The good news about colorectal cancer is that it’s 90 percent curable when detected early. Indeed, getting timely removal of polyps – tiny growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum that can change in time and become cancerous – can make a major difference in one’s longevity.
The bad news about colorectal cancer, the second leading cancer killer among men and women, is that only one in three adults who should be getting screened for the disease is actually doing so.
A lifesaving campaign promoted by the American Cancer Society is the “80 Percent by 2018 Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative.” Its goal is, by reaching 80 percent of the population in need of colorectal cancer screening and getting them the necessary exams and treatment, about 203,000 colon cancer deaths could be avoided in less than 20 years.
Think about it. That number of lives saved is close to the residential population size within the City of Santa Clarita!
The 80 by 2018 Initiative began through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) – a coalition of public, private and voluntary organizations, including the American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Optimally speaking, colorectal cancer screening looks for cancer or precancerous cellular changes early on in people who have zero symptoms (such as rectal bleeding, bowel habit changes, urgency, cramping or abdominal pain, weakness and fatigue, unexplained weight loss, etc. Any of those symptoms warrant immediate medical investigation). In the case of colon cancer being present upon screening, that exam can find the disease at an early, more treatable stage.
It is recommended that colorectal cancer screening begin at age 50 for people at average risk. Screening tests include in of the following screenings: Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) or Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) every year; flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; FOBT or FIT plus flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; double contrast barium enema every five years; colonoscopy every 10 years, unless warranted sooner. Some people, however, have certain risk factors, such as family history of colorectal cancer or colon disorders that predispose them to developing colorectal cancer, including at a younger age. For these people, screening should start earlier and with testing more often than for those without such risk factors.
Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable.
The first step begins with talking to your doctor about colorectal cancer and its screening methods.
To learn more about colorectal cancer, visit www.cancer.org/colontesting.
To learn more about the 80 by 2018 Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), visit: www.nccrt.org.
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