Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Your Guide to Prevention and Early Detection

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to increasing awareness and encouraging prevention of one of the deadliest cancers affecting the U.S. population. The American Cancer Society reports that Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and is expected to cause around 53,010 deaths this year alone. While death from colorectal cancer is declining among older Americans, it is increasing at an alarming rate in individuals under 50.

Colorectal cancer can happen to anybody at any age, and oftentimes people with colorectal cancer do not exhibit any symptoms until the disease has progressed to a late stage. That is why early and regular screening is critical.

There are various methods of screening tests, and a medical provider or gastroenterologist can recommend procedures based on your risk factors. Many people choose to get a colonoscopy, which is safe, effective, and recommended for all adults because it can help gastroenterologists identify and remove troubling polyps. Ultimately, colonoscopic screening significantly reduces the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer, and with routine screening, one-third of colorectal cancer deaths can be avoided. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) colorectal cancer screening guidelines recommend getting a computed tomography colonography (CTC) scan every five years, beginning at age 45.

Your colorectal cancer risk factors can include family history, personal history of polyps, inflammatory bowel diseases (like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), and lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of exercise, and poor diet. Race and ethnicity are also a factor, as Black and Indigenous Americans face a significantly higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. Black individuals, in particular, are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at an earlier age and with more advanced disease. For more information, The American Cancer Society is an excellent resource to help you understand your risk factors.

This Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, speak to your doctor about your medical history, risk factors, and any symptoms you’re experiencing. If you’re 45 or older, schedule your screening for colorectal cancer, regardless of whether you are exhibiting any symptoms. This could help save your life.

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