Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States.
In fact, one in 19 men and women born today will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. It does not have to be that way. Colorectal cancer is a highly preventable form of cancer.
This means that actions you take can make a real difference in lowering your risk of colorectal cancer. Do you know what actions to take? If not, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to change that. Here is some advice to get you started:
First and most importantly, get screened. Screening tests can find colorectal polyps (abnormal growths), so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. However, colorectal screening remains underused. This is alarming because studies have estimated that screening can reduce the number of people who die from colorectal cancer by as much as 50 percent.
You could avoid or increase your ability to survive colorectal cancer if you are regularly screened. It's that simple - Screening saves lives.
Generally, you should begin screening for colorectal cancer after turning 50 and continue at regular intervals until you are 75.
If you have a parent, brother, sister, or child with colorectal cancer or polyps, your doctor may recommend you get tested earlier or more often. There are many different types of screening tests, so talk to your doctor about which ones you should get and how often you should be tested. Insurance coverage varies for colorectal cancer screenings, so check with your health insurance provider to learn about your benefits. In addition, Medicare covers several colorectal cancer screening tests for its beneficiaries-visit http://www.medicare.gov/health/overview.asp to learn more. For information about free or low cost screening, contact your local health department.
Second, getting regular exercise may help you lower your risk. Studies have found that even moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking for 3 to 4 hours each week, can lower colorectal cancer risk.
To learn more about how exercise may lower your cancer risk, visit www.cancer.gov/ (Search term: Physical Activity). For exercise tips and guidelines, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/ ) Physical Activity home page (Search term: Physical Activity).
Third, eat right: Eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day is one of the easiest things you can do to lower your risk for diet-related diseases, including some cancers.
Fourth, quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of colorectal cancer as well as other cancers. You may have already heard that warning, but maybe you did not know that there is free, expert help available. Call 1-877-44U-QUIT and a smoking cessation counselor from the National Cancer Institute will provide you with the information, resources, and advice you need to quit. Or visit http://smokefree.gov/ to get started.
Now that you know what to do, it's time to take action. Start healthy habits this month to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer-call your doctor and make your screening appointment, resolve to get regular exercise, eat healthier, and quit smoking.
Even simply learning more about colorectal cancer is a good start. For reliable information, you can visit the National Cancer Institute's Web site, www.cancer.gov/ (Search term: colorectal).
You will find information about the disease and its prevention, screening, and treatment. You can also call toll-free 1-800-4-CANCER to speak to a Cancer Information Specialist. No matter what you decide to do this month, consider that each action you take is an investment in your most important possession-your health.