March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal Cancer, or CRC, is highly treatable if found in the early stages. Despite this, CRC is the third deadliest cancer in the United States. People are encouraged to begin screening for CRC at the age of 45. Screenings can expose the warning signs of CRC and allow doctors to take action to prevent the disease from developing.
CRC is a disease in which cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control. Sometimes, abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may develop into cancer. Screening tests are crucial for finding polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer.
The risk for CRC increases as you get older. Other risk factors include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
- A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include:
- Lack of exercise
- Diet low in fruits and vegetables
- A low fiber and high fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats
- Overweight and obesity
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco use
The most effective way to reduce the risk of CRC is to get screened for it routinely, starting at the age of 45. When found early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. Screening can find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Early stages of colorectal cancer usually present no symptoms. Symptoms tend to appear as the cancer progresses into the later stages.
Galen Digestive Health is the preeminent gastroenterology practice in Chattanooga and has a polyp detection rate well above the national average. Call today to schedule your colonoscopy. It could save your life. (423) 643-2500.