Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and one of the most common cancers worldwide. In an effort to raise awareness about this disease, March has been designated as Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

But Why is Colon Cancer Awareness so Important?

Firstly, early detection of colon cancer greatly increases the chances of successful treatment. When caught in its early stages, the five-year survival rate for colon cancer is about 90%, compared to only 14% for advanced stages. This is why regular screenings are crucial, as they can help detect any abnormalities before they develop into cancer.

Secondly, colon cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages. This means that individuals may not realize they have the disease until it has progressed and become more difficult to treat. By promoting awareness, we hope to encourage people to get screened and catch potential issues before they become serious.

Who Should be Concerned with Colon Cancer?

Virtually everyone should be proactive when it comes to colon cancer awareness, but there are specific groups of people who might need to pay extra attention.

Adults over the age of 50 are traditionally recommended to start regular screenings for colon cancer as risk increases with age. However, recent trends suggest an alarming rise in colon cancer rates among younger adults, prompting discussions about earlier screenings.

Additionally, individuals with a family history of colon cancer or polyps, those with inherited syndromes like Lynch Syndrome, and people with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) such as Crohn's Disease or Ulcerative Colitis are at higher risk.

Ethnicity plays a role too, with African Americans having the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the U.S.

Lifestyle factors such as diet, lack of physical activity, obesity, alcohol consumption, and smoking also contribute to the risk.

Awareness and vigilance regarding colon cancer should be a priority for everyone, especially for those in high-risk groups.

Is there a List of Conditions that People Should be Looking for?

While there are no guaranteed signs that will develop into colon cancer, there are several conditions and symptoms that might indicate an increased risk or the early stages of the disease. These include:

  • Persistent changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stool
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn't empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider. Early detection through regular screenings, particularly for those in high-risk categories, is crucial in managing and potentially preventing the development of colon cancer.

What Should You Be Screened For?

Screening for colon cancer typically involves a few key tests designed to identify any abnormalities or signs of cancer in the colon and rectum. The most common screening method is a colonoscopy, which allows doctors to visually examine the colon's interior for any polyps or tumors.

Other recommended screening tests include flexible sigmoidoscopy, which looks at the lower part of the colon, stool-based tests that check for hidden blood or DNA markers indicative of cancer, and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy), which provides imaging of the colon for analysis.

Regular screenings are vital for early detection and the prevention of colon cancer.

What Can You Do to Help Raise Awareness?

There are many ways you can contribute to Colon Cancer Awareness Month. You can start by talking to your friends and family about the importance of regular screenings for colon cancer. Share information on social media or participate in local events and fundraisers organized by cancer organizations.

You can also make small lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. This includes maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, limiting alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking. These simple steps can go a long way in preventing not just colon cancer but other types of cancers as well.

At Needham Gastroenterology Associates, our experienced physicians are here to answer questions or provide treatment if needed – schedule an appointment.