The month of March is marked as a time to foster greater awareness about colorectal cancer. The CDC is one of many organizations reminding Americans during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month about symptoms and risk factors, and how we can be screened for cancer of the colon or rectum.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Of the 140,000 Americans who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, more than 50,000 will die of it, according to the CDC website.
More than 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases happen to people who are 50 years of age or older. The CDC strongly advises all who are 50 and older to be screened for colorectal cancer, and to have regular screening until 75 years of age. This screening test can discover precancerous polyps before they become cancerous.
There are things you can do in your personal life to lessen your risk for colorectal cancer.
Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding extra weight around your midsection can lower your risk. So can upping your physical activity, and increasing its intensity. Keep alcohol consumption to a reasonal level, and don't smoke. If you smoke but want to quit, call 1 (800) QUIT-NOW, text the word "QUIT" to 47848 from your mobile phone, or visit www.smokefree.gov/
Colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps can be asymptomatic. This is why screening is so important. A screening test can inform you before you've had any symptoms at all.
If you have colorectal cancer that has progressed to the point that symptoms have begun to appear, these are some of the things you may experience.
You may have:
- Bloody stool
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
Keep in mind that these indicators don't necessarily mean you have cancer. But it's important to have them checked out by a health care professional.
Some people are more likely than others to develop colorectal cancer. You may be at higher risk if you have:
- Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerative colitis
- Personal or family history of either colorectal cancer or polyps, or both