March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is the nation’s second leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States.
About 137,000 adults are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. In 2010, more than 52,000 Americans died from it.
If you're 50 years old or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. This is important for baby boomers, the youngest of whom is now 50.
Currently, about one in three adults between the ages of 50 and 75 aren’t receiving recommended screening, said Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, M.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many Americans consumers can now receive tests, such as screening for colorectal cancer that previously weren’t available to them due to cost, Koh said.
How can you reduce your risk?
In addition to getting a screening, you can increase the intensity and amount of your physical activity, avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection, reduce alcohol and red meat consumption, and quit smoking.
Smoking causes colorectal cancer, according to the 2014 Surgeon General's Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress. For help quitting, call 800-QUIT-NOW, text the word "QUIT" to 47848 from your mobile phone, or visit smokefree.gov.
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don't always cause symptoms, especially at first. Symptoms for colorectal cancer may include:
- Blood in or on the stool.
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
- Losing weight and you don't know why.
Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. Having any of the following may increase your risk:
- Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, or ulcerative colitis.
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
- A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer or Lynch syndrome.
If you think you may be at high risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about when and how often to get tested.
For more Information, see:
- Colorectal (Colon) Cancer
- Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Screen for Life Basic Facts on Screening
- Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives
- Genetic Testing for Lynch Syndrome
- Listen to or download a podcast: Cancer: What You Don't Know Can Kill You (2010) and Don't Pass on this Test (2008)
- Watch a video: Meryl Strep: Screen for Life, No Excuses, Terrence Howard: Your Wake-Up Call, Jimmy Smits: The Screening, Diane Keaton: Grammy Keaton, and Morgan Freeman: The Picture of Health.