April 3, 2015
Today’s guest blog is by Emily White, Advocacy Manager for Fight Colorectal Cancer.
Colorectal cancer isn’t a phrase that rolls off the tongue easily. It’s not a “sexy” cancer that people like talking about. In fact, I was uncomfortable with the phrase myself for my first few weeks on the job at Fight Colorectal Cancer. I distinctly remember thinking, “Fight Colo…WHAT?!” when listening to a voicemail from our (now) President Anjee Davis asking me to meet her for an interview. Shortly after signing my job contract I asked Anjee if she ever feels strange saying the word ‘rectal’ and with a quizzical look, she answered, “Why should I?”
The feelings that drove my hesitation to say where I worked is the problem with colorectal cancer and why I feel so many aren’t screened. We feel uncomfortable talking about it. I wasn’t the only one who was uncomfortable bringing up a disease that affects such a private part of the body. My grandparents were so uncomfortable with it that I did not even know that my grandfather had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer until after I joined Fight CRC and began openly discussing the importance of being screened. Now that I’m aware of my family history, I am armed with knowledge that will help me fight this disease in my own life, since I’m now aware that I am at higher risk.
We just celebrated colorectal cancer awareness month in March and worked incredibly hard to educate the public on how to help prevent this cancer and advocate for legislation that will help thousands get screened. But our work is not over. We should be raising awareness all year, as individuals and as organizations. One in three Americans 50 years and older is not up to date with colorectal cancer screening. Many times this is due to lack of awareness, not lack of access. If the screening rate were to increase to 80 percent by 2018, more than 200,000 lives would be saved. That’s why Fight CRC is one of hundreds of organizations that have signed on to the national pledge of “80% by 2018” to do everything we can to increase the screening rate.
Colorectal cancer does not usually present symptoms such as blood in the stool, weight loss and severe cramping until the cancer has progressed to a late stage (stage III or IV). Screenings allow physicians to detect and (in the case of a colonoscopy) remove polyps in the colon before they become cancer, saving patients from the devastation of a cancer diagnosis down the road. Colorectal cancer CAN be prevented. That’s why we work every day at Fight Colorectal Cancer to raise awareness about prevention and encourage people to share this knowledge with their loved ones.
We are happy to have teamed up with Prevent Cancer last month to encourage our lawmakers to pass bills to support screening so more lives can be saved. We’re always looking for more passionate advocates who are willing to share their stories and use their voices for the cause year-round. To learn more, visit PreventCancer.org or FightColorectalCancer.org.