March is not only the month of green beer and leprechauns, it is also National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the third most prevalent cancer (excluding skin cancer) and the second leading cause of death from cancers in the United States for both men and women. In 2012 it was estimated that 103,170 new cases of colorectal cancer would be diagnosed and that 51,690 people would die from colorectal cancer. Early detection – via routine colon cancer screenings – can reduce the instances of death by 15 to 33%.
The following tests are most often used to detect colon cancer:
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – There are two types of FOBT tests, both of which use a stool sample to detect blood in fecal matter. Blood can indicate possible problems in the intestinal tract and warrant further testing that can detect cancer or precursors of cancer.
- Colonoscopy – This test utilizes a colonoscope (a lighted instrument) that looks at the rectum and the entire colon. This test allows precancerous and cancerous growths to be detected and removed/biopsied. While the deep cleanse that is required before the colonoscopy is not very pleasant, the life-saving detection is worth any discomfort.
***Screenings should start at the age of 50 unless family history exists or your physician recommends testing at an earlier time.
What you can do to decrease colon cancer risk?
- Exercise – Research has shown that doing regular exercise can decrease colon cancer risk
- Good diet – Decrease red/processed meats, saturated fats (especially from animal sources), and processed/sugary foods, while increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Don’t smoke – Smoking and using other tobacco sources has been linked to increased rates of colorectal cancer
- Know your risk factors – Age, having polyps, having personal or family history of colon cancer, having ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease all increase risk of colon cancer
Have additional questions? Contact us.