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During the month of March, USA Mitchell Cancer Institute recognizes Colorectal Cancer Awareness and the doctors and researchers closely related to the cause. Throughout the month, thousands of people join together to raise awareness of colorectal cancer by wearing blue and educating the public on the importance of prevention.
Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Alabama and the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 140,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year with 50,000 losing their battle annually. In Alabama, those rates are even higher per 100,000 population, according to the Alabama Statewide Cancer Registry. In 2015, the state predicted 2,150 new cases and 930 deaths, with higher rates among African-American men and women.
“Cancer continues to be a major public health problem in Alabama,” said Matthew Allison, MCI Cancer Control and Prevention manager. “In recent years, there has been significant progress toward reducing death and disease due to cancer with a reduction of colon cancer by 6 percent.”
Allison points out that colorectal cancer is preventable: Sixty percent of deaths can be prevented by regular colon screenings.
Although it is such a widespread disease, 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases can be successfully treated if it is found in time. Most colorectal cancer begins as polyps, which are abnormal growths that can become cancerous if they are not removed. Some possible symptoms are abdominal pain, anemia, bloody stool, fatigue or constipation.
As with many forms of cancer, certain lifestyle choices can lead individuals to an increased risk of contracting colorectal cancer, physicians say. It has been found that diets high in red meat often increase the risk of colon cancer. Additionally, diets that lead to obesity, more commonly in men, increase the risk. Though commonly related to lung cancer, smoking has been identified as an additional factor linked to colon cancer. Finally, individuals with a sedentary lifestyle tend to have an increased risk.
One step toward prevention of colorectal cancer is regular colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years for individuals 50 years or older who are at average risk. Some additional ways to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer include a healthy diet and regular exercise. These practices will reduce common risk factors and, when combined with regular screenings, can lead to a healthier and longer life.
“The Mitchell Cancer Institute and the University of South Alabama Health System have worked with employers to provide screenings, held community awareness events, and continue to find innovative ways to improve screening and treatment of colon cancer,” Allison said. “Working together with the Gulf Coast, we can continue to fight smarter and eliminate the burden of colon cancer on our community.”
© 2018 USA Health System