From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, what follows is a feature about the disease from the CDC.
“I never would have found it early if I hadn’t been screened,” said Robert, a survivor of colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum).
Since Robert’s dad got colorectal cancer at age 45, when Robert went for his annual checkup, he asked his own doctor about getting screened. He got a screening test called a colonoscopy, a test that can show the whole colon and the best kind of test for Robert because of his family cancer history. The colonoscopy showed he had cancer.
“People tell me that they are scared to get screened, but I think it’s scarier if you have a tumor that the doctor can’t remove,” Robert said. “If I hadn’t been screened, I wouldn’t have been able to see my son go off to college, or enjoy this next chapter of my life with my wife and family.”
What You Can Do
• If you’re 50 to 75 years old, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. If you’re younger than 50 and think you may be at high risk of getting colorectal cancer, or if you’re older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
• Be physically active.
• Keep a healthy weight.
• Don’t drink too much alcohol.
• Don’t smoke.
• Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans get colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.
• Risk increases with age. More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people who are 50 years old or older.
• Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include: blood in or on the stool (bowel movement); stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away; losing weight and you don’t know why. These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.
There are several screening test options. Talk with your doctor about which is right for you.