NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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March is Colorectal Awareness Month

Colorectal Awareness Month, colorectal cancer, colonoscopy

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in North Dakota. The North Dakota Cancer Coalition estimates that about 400 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year. Colorectal cancer is a major public health problem. However, colorectal cancer can be detected early at a curable stage, and it can be prevented through the detection and removal of precancerous polyps.

The colon (or large intestine) is approximately 6 feet long, with the rectum being the last 8 to 10 inches. Picture the colon as framing the lower abdominal cavity. Over a period of years, colorectal cancer can develop from benign growths, called polyps, which protrude from the surface into the colon or rectum.

Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally. Although colorectal cancer can occur at any age, the risk increases with age. Ninety-three percent of colorectal cancer cases are found in people over age 50. Most individuals (75 percent) who develop colorectal cancer have no family history and are considered at “average risk.”

Healthful lifestyle behaviors assist with the prevention of colorectal cancer and 13 other types of cancer. The same formula for healthful living also helps reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Smoking is strongly associated with colorectal, as well as lung cancer and other types of cancers. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to stop. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.

Health experts recommend physical activity for 30 minutes five times per week. The best reduction in risk for colorectal cancer has been associated with moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 45 minutes on five or more days of the week.

Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Colorectal cancer risk increases greatly when alcohol intake exceeds two drinks per day.

Screening can save lives! Polyps begin as small growths in the rectum or colon, and grow larger over time. Bleeding may occur as polyps increase in size. The blood may not be seen in the stool but can be detected chemically with a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). A positive test for blood must be followed with a colonoscopy procedure to look for polyps or colorectal cancer. Using an endoscope with a lighted camera, a physician can locate and remove polyps with a wire loop during the colonoscopy procedure. The polyp is collected and studied to determine if either precancerous cells or cancer is present. Early removal of polyps prevents the development of cancer.

Colorectal cancer is very treatable when detected early. When detected late, it often is a very serious and fatal disease. If undetected, colorectal cancer cells may spread to the liver and other organs. Once symptoms develop, the five-year survival rate may be as low as 8 percent.

Schedule an appointment with a physician to discuss appropriate screening procedures for prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer.

Source: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn634.pdf

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