March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
When it comes to colorectal cancer, prevention is paramount.
Aside from skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. An estimated 95,500 will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year and an additional 40,000 people will be diagnosed with rectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. About 50,000 people will die from the disease this year.
That’s why routine screenings for colorectal cancer are so important, says Stephan Thomé, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System oncologist. Due to the increase in colorectal cancer diagnoses in younger patients, the American Cancer Society now recommends that screenings begin at age 45 instead of 50. Those with a family history should begin screenings 10 years prior to the age at which an immediate family member was diagnosed.
“Colorectal cancer often starts with precancerous polyps in the lining of the colon,” says Dr. Thomé. “Finding and removing the polyps can help prevent the cancer.”
Screening methods include a traditional colonoscopy and an at-home test, Cologuard, which Mayo Clinic helped develop, which utilizes a stool sample to test for cancer DNA. Talk to your health care provider to see if this may be an option for you.
In addition to regular screenings, healthy lifestyle improvements may help prevent colorectal cancer. Exercise most days of the week; eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; quit smoking; maintain a healthy weight; and drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
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Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities that serve the health care needs of people in more than 60 communities in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.