Colorectal Cancer Awareness: The Importance of Screening and Prevention

Getting tested for colon cancer could prevent the disease and save someone’s life. However, colon cancer remains the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women. As a result, March has been designated National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Individuals age 50 years and older should discuss colon cancer screening with their doctor. Unfortunately, many adults have never been screened and less than two-thirds are up to date. The importance of screening is that it can catch colon cancer before the symptoms develop. At this stage, the disease is easier to treat and survival rates are favorable.

The American Cancer Society has set a goal of increasing colon cancer screening rates to 80% by 2018. According to the Society, half of all colon cancer deaths could be prevented through regular testing.

There are a number of screening options, and which option is right for you depends on your risk. For instance, people with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, or people who have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease should get a colonoscopy.

Although screening is only recommended for people age 50 years and older, which is when the majority of colorectal cancers are found in people, individuals with a family history of certain cancers or medical conditions may need to begin colonoscopy earlier and should discuss with their physician.

There are risk factors that the patient cannot control, such as age, personal or family history, and genetic conditions. Other risks can be controlled. The following factors are all linked to higher incidences of colorectal cancer and can be changed by the individual.

  • Lifestyle: low physical activity, obesity, smoking, and heavy alcohol use
  • Diet: a diet high in beef, pork, and lamb, processed meats, and fats

In addition, there are some additional strategies that may be linked to a lower incidence of colorectal cancer, such as eating more foods with dietary fiber, including garlic in your diet, drinking more milk, and eating more foods with calcium.