Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month - March

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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and we want to raise your awareness on this cancer that can be prevented.

Cancer that forms in the colon is called colon cancer. Cancer that forms in the rectum is called rectal cancer. These cancers are also called colorectal cancer. Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous or benign clumps of cells called polyps. Over time some of these polyps become colon cancers.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. in both men and women. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. But this disease is highly preventable, by getting screened beginning at age 50.

Screening means looking for a medical problem before you have symptoms—during this time, treatment works better. During screening for colorectal cancer, your doctor will ask about your medical history, discuss the options with you, and recommend one or more tests.

One of the most common screening methods is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a test where a doctor advances a slender tube with a light and camera at the end through the colon. This test is usually performed under sedation and is done every 10 years for average-risk people. The VA performs approximately 200,000 colonoscopies every year. The VA is the only sponsor to perform a controlled trial of screening colonoscopy in the U.S.

Things you can do to minimize your risk of getting colorectal cancer:

• If you’re between the ages of 50 and 75 get screened for colorectal cancer on a regular basis. Screening tests help prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed. Screening also finds this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective.
• Exercise on a regular basis.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, & whole grains; and limit intake of red meats.
• Avoid smoking.
• Limit alcohol consumption.

Your doctor can guide you to the get the proper screenings and tests.  Cancer detected early can increase you or your loved one’s chances of survival.  That’s why it’s important to stay informed, take precautions and visit your doctor regularly.

Resources –(click links below to open in new tab)

Colorectal Cancer Screening – Veterans Health Library

What Should I Know About Screening? – CDC