Among the leading cancers that affect Americans each year, colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed, but the second leading cause of death. March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. This month, become an advocate for education and understanding how to prevent this disease.
In February 2000, President Clinton dedicated March as National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. In 2004, The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) introduced the “Blue Star” as the symbol for the fight against colon cancer. Wearing blue in the month of March provides a rallying symbol for patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates to encourage screenings, education and awareness of this deadly disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, almost 140,000 Americans were diagnosed in 2014. Of that number, 50,000 would not survive. The chances of developing Colon Cancer are 1 in 20, 72 percent colon risk and 28 percent rectum risk. 90 percent of new cases occur in people 50 years of age and older. People with first-degree relatives (parent, sibling or offspring) with colon cancer are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop the disease. Early detection and education are two crucial components to decreasing the chances of the disease spreading and increasing the number of survivors.
There are measures outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to decrease you and your loved ones’ chances of developing colon cancer. According to Dr. Tim Byers, Associate Dean of Colorado Public Health, little exercise, lack of vegetables and too much red meat are attributed to 40 percent of all colon cancers.
While colon cancer is one of the most frequent diseases, surprisingly it is also one of the most preventable. Here are basic tips to stay healthy:
- The most common defense against the development of colon cancer is through medical screenings. These are usually covered by insurance and take only about 15 minutes.
- Discovering and removing polyps, mucous growths found in organs such as the uterus, nose and rectum, is the most effective measure to prevent the disease.
- Exercising daily and eating healthier will drastically improve your immune system and colon health.
- Know your family history. Colon Cancer risks are much higher among those with first-degree relatives with the disease. If you fall into this group, get screened.
Today, there are more than one million colon cancer survivors in the United States. Since 2010, the rates of colon screenings have gone up from 20 to 60 percent, according to the CDC. However, one in three adults ages 50 to 75 are not being screened as recommended. Over 90 percent of those diagnosed with colon cancer, when found at a local stage (confined to the rectum or colon) survive more than 5 years. Sadly, the majority of colon cancers are not found at an early stage. This month, wear blue to encourage screenings, promote healthier living and educate those around you to do the same.