March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis in both men and women. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20, and is slightly lower for women than men.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that forms in the colon or the rectum. It usually starts as benign polyps in the glands in the lining of the colon and rectum, and slowly develops into cancer. If caught in the early stages, colorectal cancer can often be completely cured.
Am I At Risk?
There are several factors that can increase your chances of getting colorectal cancer. Fortunately, some of these are habits that can be controlled and changed. Eating a lot of red meat or fatty foods, and low quantities of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can put you at a higher risk. Being overweight can increase your risk, as well as frequent smoking and alcohol consumption. Also, people with Type 2 diabetes have an increased chance of getting colorectal cancer.
There are other risk factors that you don’t have control over. If you fit into any of these categories you should talk to your doctor about getting a screening:
- You are older than 60
- You are African American or of Eastern European descent
- You or a relative have colorectal polyps
- You have inflammatory bowel disease
- You have a family history of colon cancer
- You have a personal history of breast cancer
Colorectal Cancer Screenings
If everyone 50 years and older had regular screenings, at least 60% of deaths from this cancer could be avoided. Colorectal cancer can often begin without any symptoms, so it is important to start screenings at age 50 even if you think you are healthy. Screenings for colorectal cancer can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer.
While colorectal cancer remains a high source of cancer deaths, there are many things you can do to keep yourself healthy. Start practicing healthy diet and exercise habits at a young age to keep your risk at a minimum, and talk with your doctor about screenings right away if you are over the age of 50. View the infographic below for more information on risk factors and early detection:
Johnston Medical Associates – Gastroenterology can provide screenings with a doctor’s referral. For more information, call 919-938-7182 or visit our website.