National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month takes place each March. Of all the forms of cancer, this is one that is easily treatable. Even so, research projections showed that nearly 150,000 cases were expected in 2008 alone. Of these, it was expected that about 50,000 people would die from the disease. During this month of awareness, it’s important to know the basics about this form of cancer and what you can do to prevent it.
Colorectal Cancer Basics
Colorectal cancer affects both men and women. Since it affects both the colon and the rectum, it is sometimes referred to as colon cancer. While it affects people from all ethnic backgrounds, it is most common in people over the age of 50. Despite the fact that it is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, it is the second largest cancer killer in the United States. It holds a common second place behind the number one killers of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. The key to combating the disease is to get colorectal screening. It is estimated that nearly 60% of deaths attributed to colorectal cancer could have been prevented if the patient went for a screening test.
A typical colorectal screening test consists of a number of tests. The first is a Fecal Occult Blood Test that checks for hidden blood in your stool samples. The next is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, which initially involves a thorough flushing out of the colon. Then the lower colon and rectum are examined for abnormal growths or to collect samples. The third test is the Colonoscopy, which involves examining the entire colon. The final test is the Double-Contrast Barium Enema where a barium enema solution is administered. The barium coats the intestines making it easier to see abnormalities on an x-ray.
Preventive Measures You Can Take
No matter how old or young you are, it’s never too late to take preventive measures against colorectal cancer. The good news is that the most of these preventive measures are easy to do and are also good for your overall health. The first thing to do is cut down the tobacco – if you are a smoker, now is the time to cut down and quit for good. Cigarette smoking is at the root of a number of forms of cancer like mouth and lung cancer. By cutting out the tobacco, you greatly reduce the risk of contracting colorectal cancer, as well.
We all know that fresh fruits and vegetables are important for our overall health. But they also play a key role in preventing and fighting cancer. They contain a solid helping of vitamins, minerals and fiber – this means that apart from cancer, fruits and vegetables are great for fighting cardiovascular disease as well. It’s a good idea to take a hard and honest look at your dietary habits. Chances are that while you may be aware of the benefits of fruits and vegetables, you might not be eating as much as you should. Instead of opting for a greasy pastry or a sugary cereal for breakfast, have a bowl of granola with some fresh fruit, whole wheat bread and milk. Make sure that your lunch and dinner have ample helpings of whole grains and vegetables, as well. If you’re prone to snacking, snack on fresh fruit, nuts or things like carrot sticks.
Developing a regular exercise routine is also important. Most of us complain that we just don’t have the time for a work-out. But the truth is that all you really need is about half an hour a day. Wake up a little earlier than usual and take a brisk morning walk – this is more than enough to keep your body in good shape. Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to think seriously about your health and take some proactive steps towards a better future.