Since the year 2000, March has been recognized as National Colon Cancer Awareness Month in the U.S., with those affected by the disease encouraged to wear blue to help increase discussion and understanding of this, the third deadliest form of cancer for both men and women.
Thankfully, campaigns like this have helped spur a decline in the overall death rate from colorectal cancer over recent years, with more than 1.5 million survivors able to tell their stories. Even so, the job is far from done.
There is still a large portion of the population, regardless of age, gender, or background, who remain unfamiliar with the symptoms of colorectal cancer and the importance of screenings. In some cases, whether due to pride, embarrassment, or avoidance, even people who do have concerns about their colon health will wait too long to book a screening, allowing a potentially containable problem to turn into a serious health risk.
“If a majority of Americans, 50 years or older, were appropriately screened for colorectal cancer, the death rate would plummet by at least one half,” explains Dr. Michael Sarap, Director of Southeastern Med’s Colorectal Cancer Team. This is because more screenings enable the removal of polyps at an early stage, as well as early detection and better treatment for more advanced conditions.
Roughly 50,000 lives are lost to colorectal cancer each year, and as the death of the beloved Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman showed us in 2020, it doesn’t solely affect older people or those with pre-existing health problems. Dr. Sarap encourages anyone to start regular screenings by the age of 45; even earlier if you have key risk factors like obesity, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, or Chron’s disease. A family history of colon polyps, or a personal history of excess drinking or smoking, will also increase your risk of getting colorectal cancer.
Dr. Sarap has identified several things to look for in terms of potential warning signs of colorectal cancer, including:
- Bleeding from the Rectum
- Blood in the Stool (could appear red, maroon, or black)
- Changes in Stool Pattern / Consistency / Shape lasting more than a few days
- Feeling unable to empty the rectum even after a bowel movement
Types of Screening
- Fecal Immuno-Chemical Test – Annual*
- Multi-Targeted Stool DNA Test (aka ColoGuard Test) – Every 3 Years*
- Colonoscopy – Every 10 Years
*If either of these tests come back positive, it would then require getting a colonoscopy, regardless of when your most recent colonoscopy was.
To get more of a clear idea of how benign polyps in the colon can progress into colon cancer, watch this video below featuring Dr. Sarap. To learn more, or to book a screening, contact the Southeastern Med Colorectal Cancer Hotline today at 740-435-2400.