In February 2000, President Clinton officially dedicated March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, perhaps because Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. In light of this, March is a great time to get up-to-date on your CRC knowledge.
The Colorectal Cancer Alliance raises awareness of preventive measures and provides support for patients, caregivers, and survivors. “Don’t Assume” is the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s 2019 National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month public awareness campaign. Their goal is to challenge assumptions and misconceptions about colorectal cancer by dispelling myths, raising awareness, and connecting people across the country with information and support.
Don’t assume you’re alone — approximately 145,000 new cases of CRC are diagnosed annually in the United States and around 50,000 Americans are expected to die of colon cancer each year.
The American Cancer Society estimates almost 650 new cases will be diagnosed this year in Idaho alone. The good news is that due to better screening, CRC mortality rates have been declining since 1990 at roughly 2 percent per year.
Don’t assume we can’t beat colorectal cancer — colon cancer is very treatable, and, if found early, recurrence rates are very low. The problem is it’s a disease that may present with no symptoms, or may present with symptoms if found late. Ideally we would like to see 100 percent of eligible patients receive screening but the current national screening rates for adults ages 50-75 are only 67 percent; in Idaho its even lower at 61 percent.
Don’t assume you’re too young for colorectal cancer — despite the improvements in the overall new CRC rates, a study from the SEER colorectal cancer registry found that the new cases of patients younger than 50 years have been increasing. The unsettling part of this is that we do not presently know why. The American Cancer Society recently recommended that adults without a family history should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45.
What can you do to prevent colon cancer? Talk to your primary care provider about keeping up to date with screening. If you’re over 45, high risk, or symptomatic — don’t wait. Talk to your doctor about getting screened.