Colorectal cancer is the second most lethal cancer among both men and women in the U.S. But experts say the disease’s fatal effects are preventable with regular screenings and lifestyle changes.
This colorectal cancer awareness month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) addresses issue of more than 140,000 Americans being diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. About 50,000 of those succumb to the disease.
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include age, family history and personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.
People with type 2 diabetes, smokers, obese individuals and those who maintain a poor diet and don’t exercise have been identified as having an increased risk for colorectal cancer as well, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Increasing physical activity may help reduce colorectal cancer risk. According to the ACS, ” Diets high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, but fiber supplements do not seem to help.”
A scientific review of colorectal cancer screening published in , The article’s authors, Dr. Judith M. E. Walsh and Dr. Jonathan P. Terdiman of the University of San Francisco, write, “Effective, safe, and relatively inexpensive methods for screening for the disease have been available for decades, and screening is championed by a large number of public, private, and professional organizations.” One of those champions of screening is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC is committed to providing funding for colorectal cancer screenings for low-income people in 25 states and four tribes in the U.S. through 2014. While optimal means for preventing colorectal cancer remain unknown, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends men and women have their first colorectal screenings at age 50.
There are various methods of screening for colorectal cancer. They include: high sensitivity fecal occult blood testing on an annual basis; sigmoidoscopy (minimally invasive exam of the intestines through the rectum) every 5 years in addition to high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing every 3 years; a double-contrast barium enema (X-Ray of large intestine) every 5 years; colonoscopy (slightly more invasive examination of bowel) every 10 years; or a CT colonoscopy (virtual colonoscopy) every five years.
More frequent testing may be recommended for those with a higher risk associated with colorectal cancer. If the sigmoidoscopy, fecal blood testing, virtual or X-Ray exams show signs of polyps (abnormal growths of tissue) or cancer, the ACS suggests a colonoscopy be performed.
In 1999, then-U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher launched a national public awareness campaign called “Screen for Life.” The goals of the campaign, according to the CDC, are to encourage people to talk to their doctors about getting screened and educate the population on the benefits of screenings for both men and women.
One of the supporters of the campaign is actor/singer Terrence Howard. Below is a public service announcement he participated in for the CDC, talking about his personal connection to the disease. Howard lost his mother to colorectal cancer. She was 56.
For more information on colorectal cancer and prevention, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/