March is Colorectal Cancer Month

It’s the type of cancer no one wants to talk about. But according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancers of the colon and rectum are among the most common cancers in the United States. In fact, the colon cancer rate in Shelby County is 60 percent higher than the national rate. It can occur in both men and women and are most often found in people who are over 50 years of age.

RISK FACTORS
A colorectal cancer risk assessment can help you learn more about your own risk factors, based on guidelines from the National Cancer Institute. Find the Risk Assessment Tool at: www.cancer.gov/colorectalcancerrisk. You may want to print your results and share them with your doctor.

REDUCING YOUR RISK
Studies are now underway looking into a number of potential ways to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Among the things being examined are smoking cessation, use of dietary supplements, use of aspirin, decreased alcohol consumption and increased physical activity. “The strongest weapon against colorectal cancer is early detection,” says Dr. Frederick Simpson, chief medical officer. Colon cancer screening is recommended at age 50 for everyone and earlier if there is a family history of colon cancer.  Screening should occur even if there are no symptoms of colon cancer.  Earlier or additional evaluation may be warranted if symptoms are present.   These include:

• changes in bowel habits

• changes in the stool

• blood in the stool

• vomiting

• abdominal discomfort, bloating or cramps

• unexplained weight loss or excessive fatigue

Dr. Simpson adds, “If you notice such changes, see your doctor right away. As with so many other types of cancer, early detection can increase your chances of surviving colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, many people shy away from discussing this topic, even with their doctor.”