Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancers that affect both males and females in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is also the fourth most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the nation.
Colorectal screening can accurately detect colorectal cancer long before the disease causes symptoms, and early detection saves lives.
Unfortunately, one in three adults aged 50 to 75 are not getting screened as recommended, according to the CDC. About 23 million adults have never undergone colorectal screening, even though two out of three unscreened individuals have a regular doctor and insurance that would pay for testing.
Soo why are millions of adults avoiding colorectal cancer screening?
Many people are unaware of the risks that colorectal cancer presents. Others don't like to talk about diseases that happen "down there." A few are uncomfortable with the prep the night before or worry about what might happen during the colorectal cancer screening, known as colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy.
A large number of people do not realize that they need to be tested, or how often they should undergo colorectal cancer screening. Still others might assume that they are not at risk of colorectal cancer or believe many of the misconceptions about the disease.
To help bring about awareness of colorectal cancer and take action towards its prevention, a variety of health care organizations participate in Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month during the month of March. While each organization celebrates the month in a slightly different way, their common goal is to dispute the many misconceptions and assumptions about colorectal cancer in ways that encourages people to undergo colorectal cancer screening.
Some organizations are taking a humorous approach to increasing awareness, which helps reduce some of the embarrassment people may feel when talking about colorectal cancer. Fight Colorectal Cancer's motto is "Get behind a cure," for example, and the website says "Screening Saves Lives: No ifs, ands or butts about it." This organization offers brochures, magazines, bracelets, posters, pins, yard signs and materials you can give away to build colon cancer awareness at your event.
The motto of this year's Colorectal Cancer Alliance public awareness campaign is "Don't Assume" and their website contains messages such as, "Don't ASSume you're too young for colorectal cancer. Your a** may look great, but if you are having symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting screened."
Many doctor offices are getting involved with Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month by providing pamphlets, updating their websites and giving talks at local nursing homes and community centers. Some people are taking a more personal approach by assessing and improving their families' diets, exercising more and scheduling an exam with their doctors.
What You Need to Know about Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the uncontrolled growth of unhealthy cells in the colon or rectum, which are the final segments of the large intestine in the digestive tract. Colorectal cancer cells can spread to nearby tissue and lymph nodes. In the later stages, colorectal cancer cells can develop in tissues far away from the intestines.
Early cases of colorectal cancer often start as noncancerous polyps, which are small clumps of cells that form on the inside lining of the colon. Most polyps are harmless, but some can turn cancerous over time. Colorectal cancer is often fatal in its later stages.
Colorectal Cancer Fast Stats
- Your risk for colorectal cancer increases with age
- Doctors will diagnose 101,420 new cases of colon cancer and 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer in 2019, according to estimates by the American Cancer Society
- More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people who are 50 and older
- About 1 in 22 men will develop colorectal cancer over the course of a lifetime; about 1 in 24 women will develop this type of cancer
- Colorectal cancer will cause an estimated 51,020 deaths
- The death rate for colorectal cancer is dropping each year, and this decrease is due largely to an increase in the number of polyps removed during colonoscopy and to improved treatment for colon cancer
Encourage your friends, family and neighbors to get active together, as exercise can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer
Spread the word about the importance of colorectal cancer screening after the age of 50 by hosting a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month event at a local senior center, library or community center in which you give out information about colorectal screenings; ask a doctor or nurse to give a talk about the importance of colorectal cancer screening
Improve your family's diet by introducing low-fat, high-calcium and high-fiber foods into your meals
Talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening; get screened as recommended
For more information about Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, contact your doctor. Screening is fast and easy – and you can get it done any month of the year.