When we think of March, we think of winter ending, the sun shining and warm weather on its way, but we should also think about National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths. This March, let’s raise awareness for the preventive actions we can take to fight this disease.
Fifteen years ago, the Prevent Cancer Foundation recognized a need to raise awareness and funding for colorectal cancer. Our first step was to lead the charge to pass a resolution designating March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and White House. March 2000 became the first National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and with 58 other partners, the Prevent Cancer Foundation launched a major public awareness campaign coining the phrase ‘Preventable, Treatable, Beatable.’
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or the rectum. It develops from polyps, grape-like growths that can form on the colon or rectum lining, that can grow cancerous over time. With timely screenings, colorectal cancer is highly preventable because polyps can be found and removed before they become cancerous.
How Far We’ve Come
Since March 2000, the platform we created has grown extensively. More organizations have joined in the effort to raise awareness for screenings and other preventive measures. Medicare covers colonoscopies for men and women aged 65 and older. Incidence rates have decreased by approximately 3% per year during the past decade. The embarrassment and stigma surrounding this disease is declining and people are more willing to talk and learn about colorectal cancer.
Yet with fifteen years of increased awareness there has been a dramatic increase in colorectal cancer diagnoses among people under 50, primarily for young men and women between the ages of 20 and 34. In order to reverse these trends, it’s important for young people to know their family medical histories and become health advocates for their communities by raising awareness for the risk factors and symptoms of this disease.
How can you prevent colon cancer? Get screened, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke and reduce alcohol use. This month, advocate for colorectal cancer awareness to Stop Cancer Before It Starts!