March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
March is the month for Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer awareness. Often referred to jointly as colorectal cancer, the term refers to cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States. As screening and treatment options for colon cancer and rectal cancer has improved, the survival rate has also increased.
Risk Factors For Colorectal Cancer
Healthy cells in the body grow and divide in a regular way to keep your body functioning the way that it should. But cells with damaged DNA become cancerous, causing cells to divide even when new cells aren’t needed. It isn’t always clear to scientists exactly why the DNA in cells becomes damaged in this way. However, a few things can point to increased risk factors for developing the disease.
- Genetics – Heredity plays a role in developing cancer, especially in people who get colorectal cancer before age 50. These genetic predispositions can be spotted through genetic testing. If you’re concerned that you might be at great risk of colon or rectal cancer because of your family history, you should talk to your doctor about genetic testing.
- Poor diet – A diet high in fat and low in fiber has been linked to higher incidences of colorectal cancers. The typical Western diet fits into this category, putting American’s at higher risk for this disease that people who live in areas where the normal diet is low in fat and high in fiber.
- Age – Colon cancer can occur in people under fifty, but it is much less common. Colorectal cancer is most often diagnosed in people over fifty.
- Race – African-Americans have a greater risk of colon cancer
- Inflammation – Chronic Inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer.
- Too little exercise – If you’re inactive, you have a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
- Diabetes – Insulin resistance and diabetes may increase your risk.
- Obesity – People who are obese are both more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer, as well as at an increased risk of dying from the disease, when compared with people of normal weight.
- Smoking – we know that smoking increases many types of cancer. Smoking also increases the risk of colon cancer.
- Alcohol – Heavy alcohol use may increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Radiation – Previous radiation therapy applied in the abdominal area, may increase the risk of colon cancer.
Symptoms Of Colon Cancer
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of colon cancer can include:
- A change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks
- 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
However, many people experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Waiting until symptoms appear may be waiting too long. Screening on a regular basis for colorectal cancer, especially if you have increased risk factors, may be the difference between catching the cancer early and not.
Screening For Colon Cancer
If you aren’t showing symptoms of colon cancer, there are a variety of tests and screenings that you can choose from to help determine your risk. Each test has a varying degree of discomfort and cost.
- Colonoscopy – A colonoscopy is one of the most sensitive and thorough tests currently available. Doctors can spot abnormal tissue, such as polyps, and tissue samples can be removed during the exam. However, sedation is required, and the preparation for the exam is fairly extensive.
- CT Colonogography – Also called a virtual colonoscopy, a CT scan is used to product cross-sectional images of the abdomen, allowing the doctor to spot changes in the colon or rectum. Some people prefer this method because sedation isn’t required. However, the preparation can still be extensive, and if any abnormalities are detected, a regular colonoscopy may still be required.
- FOBT – The Fecal Occult Blood Test is a screening done in the privacy of your own home, using a kit. The kit includes instructions for testing more than one stool at home, and how to submit the samples. The downside is that the test sometimes misses some warning signs, and further tests may still be required if any abnormalities are found.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – A tiny camera is inserted on a thin, flexible tube so that the doctor can view the inside of the rectum and most of the lower part of the colon. Sedation isn’t requires and the preparation is less extensive than for some of the other tests. However, the upper colon isn’t examined and further testing may be needed, if abnormalities are found.
- Stool DNA Test – This test uses a sample of your stool to look for blood in the stool, as well as changes to cell DNA that might indicate the presence of colon cancer. This requires a stool sample to be collected at home and sent to the laboratory for testing. This form of testing isn’t as sensitive as a colonoscopy, and additional testing may be needed.
Choosing the screening method that you’re comfortable with is a big decision. You should discuss the pros and cons of each test with your doctor. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to begin a screening schedule and commit to sticking with it. Colon cancer typically develops slowly, over time, and with regular screening, you have a good chance of catching problems early. The American Cancer Society recommends beginning screening at 50, or earlier if you have higher risks like a family history of colon cancer. Early detection is your best bet for a positive outcome.
Preventing Colon Cancer And Rectal Cancer
The defense is a good offense, and this applies to all types of cancer, even colon cancer. There are steps you can take to lower your risk of colon cancer. Most of the steps you can take are related to lifestyle.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Avoid obesity and especially weight gain in the midsection. Being overweight increases the risk for both men and women, but even more so in men. Having a larger waistline has been linked to higher risk, as well.
- Increase your activity. Get more physical activity and make it more intense. While any activity is better than none, more vigorous exercise has been linked to lower risk of colon cancer.
- Limit your red meat and processed meat consumption.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Get more calcium and vitamin D. Some studies show that increasing calcium and vitamin D intake can decrease your risk of colon cancer. Not all studies have shown this. It’s important to discuss any changes in supplementation with your doctor.
- Avoid excess alcohol. Studies have found higher alcohol intake related to higher incidences of colon cancer, especially in men.
- Quit smoking. Long term smoking is linked to colon cancer, as well as many other cancers.
Visit The American Cancer Society website for more information about reducing your risk of colon cancer.
Hold A Colon Cancer Awareness Event
Colon and rectal cancers are very treatable in the early stages. Education and awareness about prevention and screening can ensure that cancers are caught early enough to be treated successfully. Colon cancer that is detected while still in stage one has a survival rate of nearly 95%. Stage 2 tumors have a survival rate ranging from 55 to 80%. Stage 3 has about a 40% chance of successful treatment, and stage 4 has only a 10% survivability rate. Ensuring that the people we love know how and when to get screened can mean the difference between catching a tumor early, and not. The cost is too great to allow the people around us to go on in ignorance.
You can help ensure that the people around you have the information they need to combat this terrible disease. Hold a colon cancer awareness event in your area. Whether you hold an event at your place of business, at a church, or in a community area, the important thing is to proved information about screening and prevention. If you know a family who is currently combating colon cancer, perhaps you could hold a cancer awareness fundraiser.
We offer several products that have been very successful in helping people raise money for cancer awareness.
Our cancer awareness bracelet kits are very popular, as they allow you to make your own cancer fundraising jewelry and keep more money to donate toward your cancer cause. Our beautiful colon cancer awareness bracelets are also popular for colon cancer fundraising. If you are holding your awareness event in a work environment, perhaps cancer awareness lanyards would be an appropriate fundraising option. We are pleased to offer a 15% discount on all orders that will be used toward cancer fundraising. Please visit our Cancer Awareness Policy page for more information about qualifying for this discount.
Help raise awareness about colon cancer!!! For help in planning a cancer awareness fundraiser or event, please visit our page for helpful resources. Educational materials can be found at The American Cancer Society; The Mayo Clinic; and The National Cancer Institute.