March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month: Here’s What You Need to Know!
This month is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), colon cancers (of the colon and rectum) are the country’s “third leading cause of cancer death among men and women.”
Although final figures are not yet published, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for 2015 estimates:
- 132,00 new colon cancer patients
- 8% of all new cancer cases will be colon cancer
- 4.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with colon cancer in their lifetime
- 1,168,929 people currently live with colon and rectum cancer in the United States
- 5-year survival rate of 64.9%
But there’s good news. Modern cancer treatments, and more focus on screening, have led to a much higher survival rate than in years past. In 1975, the 5-year survival rate was under 50 percent. Today, it’s about 65 percent and climbing. In addition, trends show a continuous decline in the number of new cases and mortality rates.
Thankfully, many colon cancers are preventable with regular testing. But first, let’s find out if you are at a higher risk for colon cancer.
Are You a Higher Risk for Colon Cancer?
According to the ACS, cancer researchers have identified these risk factors which increase your change of developing colon and rectal polyps or cancer.
- Your Age. If you are 50 or older, you are at significantly more risk.
- Personal or Family History. If you or your close family (parents, siblings, or children) have experienced adenomatous polyps (adenomas) or a colon cancer, you are a higher risk.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). If you have IBD, including either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, your risk is increased.
- Inherited Syndromes: The most common inherited syndromes are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC). Other syndromes linked to a higher risk of colon cancer include Gardner, Turcot, Peutz-Jeghers, and MUTYH-associated polyposis.
- Racial/Ethnic Background. African-Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent (Askhenazi Jews) are at higher risk.
- Type 2 Diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes are not only at higher risk, but they also have a lower prognosis for recovery.
What Can You Do?
By far, your strongest ally in surviving colon cancer is early-detection cancer screening.
If you’re 50 or older, make an appointment with your doctor right now for a colon cancer screening. The ACS says that “only about 60 percent of adults of screening age are up-to-date on their colon cancer screening, and many have never been screened at all.”
What an unfortunately statistic. Especially considering that when colorectal cancer is found at an early stage before it has spread (through screening), the 5-year relative survival rate is about 90%! Unfortunately, the majority of colorectal cancers are not found at this early stage.
There are a number of tests and procedures that can be used to screen for colorectal polyps and cancers, from a sigmoidoscopy to a colonoscopy to a high-sensitivity fecal occult (FOBT) blood test. And there are more. Talk to your doctor about which is right for you.
Colon Cancer Resources: