March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Screening and Early Detection is Key to Good Health
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the Sussex County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Health and Sussex Warren Chronic Disease Coalition want to help you learn more about how colorectal cancer can be detected and prevented. If you are over the age of 50, now is a perfect time to get screened for this preventable type of cancer. Colorectal cancer affects both men and women alike, as well as all racial and ethnic groups.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer will cause approximately 50,630 deaths in 2018. The Department of Health reports that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the state of New Jersey for men and women combined.
The good news is that colorectal cancer is the most preventable of all cancers. Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp; growths on the lining of your colon or rectum. Most polyps are not cancerous, but some may develop into cancer over time. Therefore, removing polyps can help prevent colorectal cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular screening starting at age 50 is important since symptoms may not always occur, particularly at first. If symptoms do occur, they may include some of the following:
- Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement)
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don't go away
- Losing weight and you don't know why
Am I at risk for colorectal cancer?
The risk of developing this cancer increases with age. All men and women aged 50 and older are at risk for developing colorectal cancer and should be screened. Some people are at a higher risk and may need to be screened at an age younger than 50. It is recommended that those with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease; colorectal cancer or polyps; or a genetic syndrome such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), Lynch syndrome, Turcot syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, or MUTYH-Associated Polyposis be screened earlier than 50 years of age.
How can I lower my risk?
To lower your risk of colorectal cancer, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons recommends that you:
- Get regular colorectal cancer screenings
- Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet and plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Do not use tobacco products
- Exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week. Moderate exercise such as walking, gardening, or climbing steps may help.
Which screening is best for me?
Speak with your healthcare provider about which screening procedure is best for you and how often you should be screened. The following screenings may be recommended by your healthcare provider:
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) done at home and returned to the healthcare provider
- Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) done at home and returned to the healthcare provider
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (a visual examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon, performed in a doctor's office)
- Virtual Colonoscopy (uses X-Ray and lets doctor see images on a computer screen)
- Colonoscopy (a visual examination of the entire colon)
Colorectal cancer screening costs are usually covered by Medicare and many commercial health plans through your healthcare provider. The New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program (NJCEED) provides free colorectal cancer screening for individuals who meet the poverty level criteria and are either uninsured or under-insured. NJCEED can be contacted through the Sussex County Division of Health, Office of Public Health Nursing.
For more information on colorectal cancer visit these websites:
Office of Public Health Nursing,