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Educating Yourself About Colorectal Cancer

The Pink Ribbon Campaign has done much to increase awareness of breast cancer and the need for women to be aware of their risk of this horrible disease and the need for men to be supportive of efforts to diagnose and eradicate it. Breast cancer, however, is not the only cancer that poses a significant risk to women, and even men as well. Colorectal cancer, the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States excluding skin cancers, is also a powerful threat to health of thousands.

Each year roughly 106,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer, and approximately 50,000 people die from the disease. This is a survival rate of about 50%, which proves that those who are at high risk for the disease should catch it early and begin treatment to increase their chances of survival.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that affects the lower intestine and rectum. Most instances begin as a small tissue growth known as a polyp that grows in the colon lining and then invades the center of the colon. Not all polyps are cancerous, but many of them are, and early detection of potentially cancerous polyps and their removal goes a long way toward preventing death from the disease.

Unlike some other cancers, colorectal cancer grows slowly. Yet this slow growth does not mean people can take it less than seriously, and potential symptoms of colorectal cancer should clue a person to get checked out for the disease. These symptoms include rectal bleeding, persistent abdominal pain, blood in the stool, long-lasting change in bowel habits, weight gain or loss, and fatigue.

Those at risk for colorectal cancer include persons over the age of 50, smokers, alcoholics, persons who eat high-fat, low-fiber diets, persons who do not get much exercise, and those with a family history of colorectal cancer. Persons of African descent are also at a higher risk for colorectal cancer than any other race.

Regarding a family history of colorectal cancer, evidence has not yet conclusively proved a genetic link. Many researchers believe that colorectal factors may run in families because of environmental factors. In other words, families tend to have the same diet, exercise habits, etc., and it may be these more external factors that contribute to its preponderance in certain families. In any case, those who have had close relatives with colorectal cancer should be especially alert when it comes to being screened for cancer, and they should adopt a lifestyle that will lower their risk factors.

Preventing colorectal cancer begins at home. A high-fiber diet that includes many fruits and vegetables and whole grains can lower risk for cancer. Smokers can quit their habit to lower their chances of getting the disease. Regular exercise and non-excessive consumption of alcohol will also be helpful.

There are also medical procedures that should be performed as often as recommended in the medical community to detect and fight the cancer early. Colonoscopies every ten years after age fifty, virtual colonoscopies every five years, double-contrast barium enemas every five years, and more are some of these procedures.

If colon cancer is detected, there are several routes of treatment that can be adopted individually or collectively. Doctors can often remove early-stage polyps during an early stage of the cancer. In more advanced stages of colorectal cancer, entire sections of the colon may need to be removed to effect healing. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which are common treatments for all cancers, are usually recommended as well.

No one would deny that doing all one can to prevent colorectal cancer is the best course of action so that more drastic measures are not needed later on. Take this information to heart and do more research to help steer clear of getting colorectal cancer in the first place.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Colorectal Cancer — some brief information on colorectal cancer from the University of Michigan

Mayo Clinic: Colorectal Cancer — an informative site on this cancer from the world-renowned Mayo Clinic

Prevent Cancer Foundation — those who visit this site can find out how to prevent colorectal cancer

WebMD: Colorectal Cancer — an informative page on colorectal cancer offered from the famous site about medicine and disease

What is Colorectal Cancer? — the American Cancer society offers much information on colorectal cancer on this site.

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