March is Colorectal cancer month and the perfect time to schedule a screening if you are years of age or older.

The statistics speak for themselves.  According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, 153,00 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year. Nearly 53,000 people will die from colorectal cancer in 2023.  If you are a man you have a 1 in 23 chance of developing the cancer and if you are a woman your chances are only slightly less at 1 in 25.  Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.

Despite these grim statistics, it is often very easy to know your risk of developing colon or rectal cancer By scheduling a screening you can learn where you stand.  Until very recently it has been recommended that a colon cancer screening, usually done through a colonoscopy, starting at the age of 50. But now medical professionals suggest that patients seek out their first screening starting at the age of 45.  It is recommended that if you have a history of colon or rectal cancer in your family you should start even earlier at the age of 40. Colorectal cancer, or CRC, is a disease of the colon or rectum, which are parts of the digestive system. But unlike most cancers, colorectal cancer is often preventable with screening and highly treatable when detected early. That is why early screenings are so highly recommended by the medical staff at Faith Community Hospital System.

Colorectal cancer often develops without symptoms so you may never know the cancer is growing inside you without having a colonoscopy, which is the official name of the most common screening process.  A colonoscopy is a simple and safe procedure in which your doctor uses a long tube with a light and camera to detect polyps. Polyps can be removed during the procedure if found. This is the standard test for colorectal cancer screening. 

There are not always symptoms that point you to the development of colon cancer but there are certain things that may indicate it:

  • A change in your bowel habits
  • Persistent abdominal pains
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Body weakness and constant tiredness

Keep in mind that colorectal cancer is called the ‘silent killer’ for a reason.  There are often no symptoms at all.  But if you have a family history of the disease your chances of developing it may be increased, experts point out.

Sometimes any polyps detected are non-cancerous but the discovery can also indicate the opposite.  In either case they are removed during the surgery. Most patients go home the same day as the procedure.

There are steps you can take to make your colon healthier.  One of the ways to safeguard against the onset of colon cancer is to eat more fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, take in whole grains as well as more chicken and turkey and reduce the amount of carbohydrates and fried food.  In addition, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, cutting down on smoking and getting more exercise to keep your weight down are also beneficial steps to take.

Medical providers urge you to discuss your risk of colon cancer with your primary care provider. Putting off your screenings will put you at further risks.  Many Americans fall into another dangerous statistic.  That statistic is that 1 in 3 Americans don’t get screened.  But early detection can often save your life. 

If you are found to have cancerous polyps your medical provider will schedule you for another colonoscopy years sooner than if you are found to have no polyps or noncancerous ones. Either way, you won’t know where you stand until you get screened, so experts recommend the screenings.