March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Tennova Healthcare - Lebanon is making a special effort to educate the community on the vital role of screenings in the fight against the disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. It is the fourth most common cancer in the United States, and the second leading cause of death from cancer. However, advanced screening methods make it easier to discover this cancer in its early, most treatable form.
"With colorectal cancer, early detection and prompt treatment can save lives," said Jocelyne K. Miller, M.D., a board-certified gastroenterologist with Tennova Healthcare. "Regular screenings can even prevent colorectal cancer by identifying precancerous polyps or other abnormal growths so they can be removed."
Experts recommend the following screenings and intervals for adults aged 50 to 75:
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years with FOBT every three years
"More than 90 percent of colon and rectal cancers occur in people aged 50 and older," Miller said. "Because precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don't always have symptoms, particularly early on, regular screenings are essential."
People at an increased risk for colorectal cancer - including those with a history of inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, smoking, obesity and a number of inherited syndromes - may require increased vigilance or more frequent screening. For example, African-American men and women should begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 45 rather than age 50, according to new recommendations from the American College of Gastroenterology.
"Regular screenings are especially important for women," Miller said. "In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer among women, behind breast and lung cancers. It accounts for 10 percent of all new cancer cases in women - and the incidence is higher among African-American women than other ethnicities."
In addition to screenings, the American Cancer Society recommends these five steps to lower colorectal cancer risk: eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; get regular exercise; maintain a healthy weight; don't smoke; and limit alcohol. Healthy lifestyle habits can also lower your risk for many other types of cancer and other serious diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Talk with your doctor about how your lifestyle, family history or racial background may factor into your risk for colorectal cancer. To learn more, visit Tennova.com.