Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (March)
One topic that many people avoid discussing is colorectal cancer. It may be associated with embarrassment for some, and is highly misunderstood by many. March is National Colorectal Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Equally common in men and women, approximately 146,970 were diagnosed in 2009, and approximately 49,920 people died from the disease.
Colorectal cancer can be prevented through regular screenings and tests. Through screenings, for people that do not have symptoms, polyps or growths, can be removed before they have a chance to turn into cancer. Colorectal cancer can also be found early, when it is small and more likely to be cured.
Symptoms: Early stages of colorectal cancer do not usually have symptoms.
Advanced disease may cause:
- Rectal bleeding or blood in or on the stool
- Change in bowel habits or stools that are narrower than usual
- Stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps)
- Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- Constant fatigue
- Men and women age 50 and older
- People who use tobacco, are obese or are sedentary
- People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
- People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as long standing ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
- People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer
You can be proactive in the prevention of colorectal cancer. To reduce your risk, include the following health behaviors in your life: be physically active and exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, eat high-fiber fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains, include low fat, calcium-rich foods in your diet, limit red meat consumption and avoid processed meats, don't smoke and don't drink alcohol excessively. Information obtained at www.preventcancer.org and www.cancer.org.
Article provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator with Community Outreach.