March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer affects both men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. It is the third most common cancer and the 2nd leading cancer killer in the United States. Early detection through screening; however, can drastically change these numbers. Colorectal cancer has been named the “other silent killer” because there are often no symptoms in the earliest stages. During these early stages, it is the most treatable which is why routine screening is so important.
Most people don’t like to think about colorectal cancer or screening (which may include a colonoscopy), but screening saves lives!
Who should be screened?
- All men and women beginning at age 50, or earlier if they have certain risk factors or symptoms.
- People with a personal history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease (not irritable bowel syndrome) have an increased risk and may need to be screened at an earlier age.
- People with a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or who have a first degree relative with colon cancer, pre-cancerous polyps, familial adenomatous polyposis disease (FAP), or ovarian/uterine cancer before age 50.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:
- Change in bowel habits
- Unexplained bloating or abdominal discomfort
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unexplained fatigue
Racial and ethnic background plays a role in colorectal cancer risk. African-American men and women are diagnosed and die at higher rates from colorectal cancer, though this reason is not yet fully understood. Jews of Eastern European descent have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks.
Residents who are uninsured or underinsured may qualify for free screening services through the health department. To find out if you qualify, please call our Colorectal Cancer Program at 301-475-4318. To learn more about our services, please visit our website here.
To learn more about colorectal cancer screening and prevention, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.