The following content is provided by the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA).
By Andrew Spiegel, Esquire
Chief Executive Officer, Colon Cancer Alliance
When is the last time you talked about colon cancer? It’s a disease no one wants to talk about, yet it is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. A lot of work has gone into bringing awareness to this disease, but because it deals with part of the body that our society is uncomfortable talking about, many suffer needlessly because they postponed a colonoscopy or neglected it altogether.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and a great opportunity to openly discuss the disease and learn how we can prevent it. Understanding risk factors, symptoms, and screening options will not only help in avoiding the disease, but could mean the difference between life and death.
Many believe that if they have no symptoms, they are in the clear, but this kind of thinking can be deadly. Colon cancer most often has no symptoms until it has already progressed to later stages, making it much more difficult to treat. The good news is that a routine colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50 for most individuals could help save thousands of lives in this country every year because polyps can be found and removed before they have a chance to turn into cancer.
It is important to realize that colon cancer doesn’t just affect those over the age of 50 nor does it affect just men. In fact, statistics show that colon cancer affects both genders equally. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 150,000 people will be diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer this year with women accounting for 70,000 new cases. Everyone should be aware of the risk factors. Knowing your family health history is imperative. If someone in your family battled colon cancer OR had colon polyps, you probably need to be screened earlier and should talk to your doctor right away. Also, if you suffer from Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis or Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), you are at an increased risk of developing this disease.
The results of screening are undeniable. Screening can reduce colon cancer deaths by up to 90%. Colon cancer is one of the most preventable diseases and is a very curable cancer…if it’s caught early. Sadly, too many cases are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease when treatment is challenging.
The Colon Cancer Alliance is working hard to change the way people talk about colon cancer, encouraging frank and open discussions at events across the country. On March 2nd, Dress in Blue Day will sweep across the nation, uniting survivors and families and spreading the message that this is a disease we can do something about – if we take action and get screened. Why blue? Much like the pink ribbon for breast cancer, the blue star of hope is the universal symbol for colon cancer. Participants in the Dress in Blue Day program spearhead educational and fundraising events in their offices, schools and communities.
One in 19 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer, but you have the power to change that by starting a simple conversation with your family and friends and making sure you’re taking care of YOU. But I hope you won’t stop there. If you’d like to join the fight against this disease, the Colon Cancer Alliance has a multitude of volunteer opportunities. Please visit www.ccalliance.org to find out how you can help.
Andrew Spiegel is the Chief Executive Officer of the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA), the leading national patient advocacy organization dedicated to increasing screening rates and survivorship. The CCA provides hope and support to patients and their families, while saving lives through screening, access, awareness, advocacy and research.
To learn more, visit www.ccalliance.org.