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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

March is designated as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It is important for all of us to be aware that colorectal cancer is the fourth leading cause of death from cancer in the United States.

It has been reported that over the last decade, the number of new colorectal cancer cases in the United States has decreased slightly per year in patients aged 50 years and older. This is because more adults started following the recommended guidelines for screening for colorectal cancer.

As a result of this increased screening, from the years 2012 to 2020, the deaths from colorectal cancer have also declined slightly each year.

The following screening information is from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, often referred to as the CDC. It is currently recommended that all adults who are at the age of 45 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. The decision to be screened between ages 76 and 85 should be made on an individual basis. If a person is older than age 75, they recommend that you talk to your health care provider about colorectal cancer screening. People who have a family history of colorectal cancer are at an  HYPERLINK “https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/risk_factors.htm” increased risk of getting colorectal cancer and they should be certain to talk to their doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for them, and how often they should be tested.

The current recommendations for colorectal cancer screening are to have a screening colonoscopy examination at age 45. Further recommendations for the frequency of these screening examinations will be made depending upon what is found at the time of this initial screening examination. However, if a person has a family history of colorectal cancer, the recommendation is to start screening at age 40, or 10 years before the age at which the family history of colorectal cancer was diagnosed. As you can see, the reason it is so important to know your family history of any cancer is that it does increase your risk of possibly developing that cancer. Therefore, with a positive family cancer history, it will generally be recommended to have your cancer screening at an earlier age.

Colorectal cancer is often called the “silent killer,” because there are usually no early symptoms. In fact, the most common early symptom of colon cancer is nothing at all. Therefore, do not ever believe that if you are having no symptoms and feeling well, that you should not have colorectal cancer screening. Of course, if any symptoms are present, such as rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, unexplained anemia, or other digestive symptoms, see your doctor right away. Remember this very important fact that the most common early symptom of colorectal cancer is nothing at all. This is why it is so important to follow these screening guidelines for this common but preventable cancer. Again, if you are having any digestive system problems or complaints, see your health care provider and get checked right away. Further, know that smoking will increase the overall risk for colorectal cancer by nearly 20 percent.

It is so important to be aware that colorectal cancer, if caught early, is one of the most curable of all cancers. Further, know that the most common early symptom of colon cancer or of the pre-cancerous colon polyps is nothing at all. Do yourself and your family a big favor and follow the screening guidelines for the prevention of colorectal cancer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of the best-selling SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet book and his new Joke Book, entitled “Laughter Is Good Medicine”. Dr. Jim’s website is sosdietbook.com.


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