Award-winning actor Terrence Howard is the first national ambassador for the Colon Cancer Alliance’s Sons and Mothers campaign. His mother’s cancer had reached stage 3 by the time it was diagnosed. At stage IIIB, the 5-year survival rate drops to about 46%. Howard’s mother succumbed to the disease a few years after her diagnosis. Many Americans simple do not realize, when it comes to cancer, colon cancer ranks number 4 in prevalence and number 2 in deaths.
“I miss my mother’s voice and her gentle kindness,” reflects Howard. “But despite my loss, my mom would love to know that her battle with colon cancer helped save others.” Colorectal cancer is preventable with early cancer screenings and the removal of precancerous or cancerous polyps coupled with treatment.
A lot of women unfortunately think of colorectal cancer as a man’s disease and place more focus on breast and ovarian cancer. Colorectal Cancer should never be overlooked by anyone, for the chances of developing it is 1 in 20 over a person’s lifetime. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a good time for men and women to get the facts and discuss the appropriate tests with their doctor.
Typically stool tests are done once a year. When a patient reaches the appropriate age or shows symptoms, a thin flexible sigmoidoscopy tube with a light allows doctors to look inside the rectum and the lower 3rd of the colon. Experts suggest redoing that test every 5 years. The longer colonoscopy tube allows doctors to inspect the entire colon and should be repeated at least every 10 years.
More than 90% of colorectal cancers occur at age 50 and older. Therefore, the CDC, recommends screening begin at age 50. People at greater risk may be screened earlier. A family history of the colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and genetic syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome) indicate higher risk.
Lifestyle choices may also heighten the risk. Lack of exercise or physical activity, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, a diet low in fiber and high in fat, obesity, and alcohol as well as tobacco use, all, fall in that category.
The CDC advises Americans to manage the risks for colorectal cancer even though it occurs in people with no known risks 75% of the time...better safe than sorry.
Moreover, early warning symptoms rarely exist with colorectal cancer. So, it may fall late in the game when blood appears in one’s stool, stomach pains and cramps become chronic, and weight loss transpires. That is why testing is critical to saving lives. Forget about using the lack of risk factors and symptoms as excuses for not getting tested.
Please note that cash-strapped folks have options as well. Low-income, underinsured individuals living in a state with government funded colorectal cancer programs may qualify for free or low-cost screening. Click here to learn more from the CDC. Local health fairs and medical outreach programs could be other source for free screening, especially during this month. American Cancer Society may offer some insight into such screenings. Click here for more information.
Take the Stop Colon Cancer pledge at by clicking here and join 2nd Annual Get Your Rear in Gear 5K, a Colon Cancer Coalition event, on Sunday, March 17 by clicking here. The Colon Cancer Alliance also invites questions at http://www.ccalliance.org/.
All rights to this article are reserved by Gloria Blakely. Copyright 2013.