When it comes to health, it pays to be proactive. When it comes to cancer, being proactive could be a literal lifesaver.

March is colorectal cancer Awareness month, bringing attention to colon (or colorectal) cancer – the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.

It can be a deadly disease, but without proactive screenings, it’s one that often goes unnoticed or undiagnosed in its early stages.  Screenings are the No. 1 way to detect colorectal cancers and in most cases are covered 100% by most insurance plans.

Here are some fast facts to skim and give yourself a good start on understanding why this is important and what you can do for yourself and your family. Statistics are provided by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.

What is colon or colorectal cancer?

  • Colorectal cancer occurs in the colon or rectum and is often called colon cancer for short
  • Your colon (large intestine) is part of your digestive system
  • Abnormal growths – called polyps – can form in the colon or rectum and over time turn into cancer. Regular screenings catch these early when treatment works best.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Not all patients experience symptoms, so regular, timely screenings are critical, but definitely talk with your provider if you exhibit:

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort and stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss

How common is colorectal cancer?

  • 151,030 new cases are expected in 2022, with more than 52,580 deaths
  • On average, your lifetime risk is 1 in 24
  • Most cases are in patients over 50, but cases in those under 50 are on the rise

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

Anyone can be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but these things may increase your risk:

  • A personal or family history of polyps or cancer
  • If you are over the age of 50
  • Genetic conditions like Lynch Syndrome, FAP (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis), MAP (MUTYH-Associated Polyposis)
  • Diagnoses like ulcerative colitis, IBD or Crohn’s disease
  • Certain Ethnic groups have a higher risk including African Americans, Jewish people of Eastern European descent, Native Americans and Native Alaskans

What you can do

  • Know the signs and symptoms
  • Listen to your body and speak up if something is not right
  • Know your family health history
  • Get screenings beginning at age 45
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat a healthy diet

But we can never say it enough. Early screenings save lives, so if you’re over 45 contact your provider to schedule a colorectal cancer screening.

Set up your appointment today