March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and with it comes an opportunity to bring attention to potentially lifesaving actions people can take.
More than 132,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the U.S. this year, and an estimated 49,700 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Colorectal cancer is the nation's third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women.
It can be completely prevented by screening and it is also one of the most successfully treated cancers if diagnosed early. The five-year survival rate is around 90 percent for colorectal cancers caught in their earliest stage.
The ACS recommends that most people begin regular screening at age 50. People at higher risk, such as those with a family history of the disease, may need to start screening earlier. Obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, a diet high in red or processed meat, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables also increase your chance of having colorectal cancer.
The most common tests are stool tests and the colonoscopy. Major strides have been made with screening rates in the U.S., but we can do better. Members of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, an organization co-founded by the ACS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are embracing a shared goal to increase the nation's screening rate to at least 80 percent by the year 2018.
For more information, visit www.cancer.org.