March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to make an appointment with your doctor to have a colon check-up if you are over the age of 50.
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum and health officials and doctors report this particular type of cancer can be detected and successfully treated if you are diligent about screenings. "Despite the fact that it is highly preventable, approximately 145,290 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2005 and 56,290 people will die from the disease," according to the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation's website, www.preventcancer.org .
A constituent was telling me about his mother who passed away last year from colon cancer. In 2003, the mother went to the emergency room of her local hospital with a bloated stomach. It was only then that they discovered she was completely blocked by a cancerous growth in her lower intestine. While the surgeon was able to remove the growth, he said the cancer had already spread to her liver and that she only had a year to live. He said she probably had colon cancer for the last six years. She died nine months after this diagnosis at the age of 65. The mother's doctor told the family that if she had regular screenings, he would have found the cancer earlier and would have been able to prevent this tragedy.
According to the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, "Most cases of the disease begin as non-cancerous polyps ... on the lining of the colon and rectum. These polyps can become cancerous. Removing these polyps can prevent colorectal cancers from ever developing."
Health officials recommend people should have regular screenings starting at the age of 50. Screenings should be conducted at least every five years. Those who have a higher risk of this disease, should start being screened at the age of 40. The National Cancer Institute reports that risk factors for colorectal cancer include age, family history, a history of polyps, a diet high in fat and low in calcium and fiber, and cigarette smoking. Having routine screenings performed, eating healthy and exercising regularly can help reduce the risk.
The National Cancer Institute, which is part of the federal government's National Institutes of Health, has information specialists that can answer questions and send materials on colorectal cancer. Call (800) 4-CANCER for more information.