Pop quiz: What’s the third most common cancer?
If you’re stumped, you’re not alone. The answer is colorectal cancer, a type of cancer that can be silent. Yet it’s the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
March is Colorectal Cancer Month, so it’s a good time to brush up on your knowledge about symptoms and screenings.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get up to date. The U.S. National Library of Medicine maintains a robust resource at medlineplus.gov/colorectalcancer.html, including information about diagnosis, prevention and treatment. And the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which organizes the awareness month, advocates for patients and raises funds for research, maintains a helpline at 877-422-2030. If you call, you’ll be connected to colorectal cancer survivors, caregivers and other resources.
Colorectal cancer, which affects the colon or rectum, can appear without any symptoms. Screening can help find the cancer at an early stage, and can involve fecal tests, colonoscopies and other procedures. It’s recommended that people with normal risk begin screening at age 50, but people with higher risk factors, such as a history of Crohn’s or inflammatory bowel disease or certain genetic markers, should begin earlier. You can learn more about screening at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Though colorectal cancer kills about 50,000 Americans each year, you can reduce your risk. Increased physical activity, limited alcohol intake and avoiding tobacco have all been shown to decrease risk.
Colorectal cancer is highly treatable, and the earlier it’s detected the better the chances of survival. So don’t stop at awareness this Colorectal Cancer Month — head to your doctor if it’s time for your next screening.