March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Much progress has been made in fighting this deadly disease since Congress first designated the awareness month in 2000. Despite this progress, approximately 53,010 people are expected to die of colorectal cancer this year, and the disease is increasingly diagnosed in patients younger than 50. Fortunately, colorectal cancer is highly preventable and treatable when caught early.
Throughout March, American College of Surgeons experts will be available to speak to media members to discuss what everyone should know about colorectal cancer.
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States and is now the leading cause of cancer deaths in men younger than 50 and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women of the same age group.
Although signs and symptoms may not appear until the cancer has advanced, American College of Surgeons experts advise that all people should pay attention to changes in their bowel habits and report these changes to their primary care physician, including:
In recent decades, there has been an alarming rise in the incidence of colorectal cancer in adults under the age of 50. This increase has occurred throughout the United States, as well as in other high-income countries.
Source: Mayo Clinic. Addressing the rising incidence of early-onset colorectal cancer.
People of all ages should also pay close attention to concerning changes in bowel activity and other signs and symptoms that could indicate colorectal cancer.
Researchers continue to investigate the reasons behind the increase in early-onset colorectal cancer. Research is underway to determine potential lifestyle factors, including poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, and increasing rates of obesity.
Screening for colorectal cancer saves lives, and should begin at age 45 for people at average risk of developing colorectal cancer, according to guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should be screened 10 years earlier than the youngest age of diagnosis in their family.
Unfortunately, the CDC estimates that only about 70% of U.S. adults aged 50 to 75 are up to date on their screening, and much of the population may not be aware of all the screening options available to them.
There are several options available for colorectal cancer screening:
American College of Surgeons experts recommend that colonoscopy remains the gold standard of screening options for colorectal cancer, but overall, choosing any screening option is better than not getting screened at all.