Colon Cancer Awareness Month
Ray Smith
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

What to know about the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death

It’s not often you hear the words ‘cancer’ and ‘good news’ in the same sentence but here it is: The rate of people being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year has dropped overall since the mid-1980s. One of the primary reasons driving this positive trend is the fact that more people are getting screened.

While it would be nice to think that colon cancer is going away, it’s not. It’s the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women, and an estimated 153,000+ cases of colon and rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year. But, thanks to screenings, we’re catching abnormal tissue, such as polyps, before they can develop into life-threatening cancer.

Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests screening for adults ages 50 to 75. If a screening reveals no cause for concern, the time between screenings may be as long as 10 years.

For individuals with a personal or family history of colon cancer or other risk factors (see below), it may be recommended to begin screenings earlier.

Factors that put you at risk for colorectal cancer include:

  • Age
  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • Inherited disorders, such as Lynch syndrome, that increases risk of some cancers
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • A diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Use of tobacco or alcohol
  • Eating a lot of red and processed meats

            NOTE: About 5 to 10 percent of colorectal cancers are due to hereditary factors.

Even if you have no family history and practice a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to keep colorectal cancer front of mind and have screenings as recommended by your doctor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that only about two-thirds of U.S. adults ages 50 to 75 are up-to-date on their colon cancer screenings.

And because the symptoms of colorectal cancer can be no symptoms at all, without a screening, it’s impossible to treat or prevent it.

To learn what’s involved in a colorectal screening at SVHC, click here.

Dr. David Furman is a board-certified gastroenterologist at SVMC Gastroenterology.


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