Colon Cancer: Be Aware & Take Care

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States. Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, affects the colon or rectum, which are part of the digestive system. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 106,970 new cases of colon cancer and 46,050 new cases of rectal cancer diagnosed in 2023. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of this disease, as well as the preventive measures and screening options available.

Risk Factors:

  • Age: The risk increases as you get older, with over 90% of cases occurring in people over the age of 50.
  • Family history: People with a family history of colon cancer or polyps are at an increased risk of developing the disease.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are at an increased risk.
  • Lifestyle factors: Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption can increase the risk as well.

Signs and Symptoms:

Early detection is incredibly important, as it can increase the chances of successful treatment. Some signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Iron deficiency anemia

Preventive Measures and Screening Options:

There are several preventive measures and screening options available which include:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption

Screening for colon cancer is recommended for people at average risk starting at age 45, and earlier for those with certain risk factors. There are several screening options available, including stool tests, colonoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy. Talk to your healthcare provider at Burnett Medical Center to determine the best screening option for you. Our general surgery department also performs colonoscopies so you can get your care all in one place.

Colon Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and prevention of this deadly disease. By taking proactive steps to reduce your risk and getting screened regularly, you can help protect yourself and live a long, healthy life.