Wear Blue for Your Colon


National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is observed in March

A valuable opportunity for healthcare providers, patients with the disease, and allies to advocate awareness and the importance of getting pre-screened for prevention and learn about possible treatments. Professionals take this time to recognize the opportunities available within the field of colon and rectal surgery and offer counseling and education on a case by case basis. If bowel movements seem unusual for more than a week, we encourage you to visit your doctor and find out more about this treatable health concern.

Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the Colon or Rectum. In 2020 it is estimated there could be around 53,200 deaths in the United States due to this type of cancer.  The Colorectal Cancer Alliance reports this is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. The survival rate has been improving in the last 20 years in part to early detection and improved screening processes.  The earlier the cancer is found and diagnosed the better the survival rate.

There are (5) stages, these are the most important

Stage (1) one; survival rate at this time is 90%. –  Small polyps may begin to form in the colon, they start off as non-cancerous. During a colonoscopy (colon exam) the polyps are detected and may be removed.

Stage (3) three; survival rate at this time is 35% – Cancer has moved into the lymph nodes and waste removal and disease prevention are compromised.

Stage (4) four; survival rate at this time is 21% – Cancer has now traveled thru the bloodstream and to other organs and is now difficult to treat.

Treatments range from polyp removal during an endoscopy, partial colon resection, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy for advanced stages.  

Colorectal Cancer 101

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain, cramping, bloating or discomfort – get screened if gas seems to be a frequent flier
  • Changes in bowel habits (timing) and changes in the consistency lasting over several weeks
  • Bloody or very dark stools
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting and you are not pregnant
  • Changes in appetite and unintended weight loss
  • Anemia – low red blood cell count. Changes in the lining of the colon affect the absorption of nutrients and can even leave you immune-compromised.
  • Jaundice- a change in the skin or the white of the eye becomes yellow. This can become life-threatening

What are the risk factors to look out for:

Factors you can change:

  • Overweight and obesity – especially true in men. Check out this BMI ( body mass index) chart to see where you fit in.
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Poor dietary habits- diets high in red meats and processed meats, fried foods, trans fats, refined grain, processed foods (IE Fast food from a window). Diets which include little to no fruits or vegetable and fiber.
  • Stop Smoking
  • Limit alcohol use to (1) one drink per day

Factors you cannot change:

  • Age – It is recommended that over 50 years old you should get a check-up
  • History of polyps – chances increase of a return of the polyps if they were discovered at a young age. However early detection and removal is the best preventative treatment of long-term health issues.
  • History of Inflammatory Bowel Disease – If you have IBD, you may need to start getting screened for colorectal cancer when you are younger and be screened more often. IBS is different and does not increase the risk of cancer. Inflammation does however affect your immunity and should be addressed thru changes in your diet.
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Family history – 1 in 3 people who develop Colorectal Cancer have other family members who have had it. Talk to your family.
  • Racial/ethnic background – Yep Colon Cancer has an attitude; African Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent seem to be favorites of this disease.
  • Exposure to cancer-causing agents in the environment such as radiation, asbestos, pesticides
  • Type 2 diabetes non-insulin-dependent

Strategies to reduce your risk would include:

  • Get checkups after 50 Years old if you have any concerns or family history.
  • Increase Antioxidant and fiber consumption and search out cancer-fighting foods which help lower inflammation.
  • Limit alcohol consumption and increase water intake.
  • Treat underlying health issues such as IBD and diarrhea.
  • Manage hemorrhoids and eat food that relieves constipation. Manage hemorrhoids and eat food that relieves constipation.  
  • Stay active and exercise

Tools from American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons

  • American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons YouTube channel offers quick training videos on various subjects from bowel incontinence to colostomy.
  • Physicians may create an Anal Cancer Brochure to help educate anal cancer patients. These brochures outline diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care in packs of 100. Design a Patient Letter.
  • Watch short videos created by colorectal surgeons from the Patient Resource Library.

Local tools

  • Texas Cancer (Round Rock, TX) helps low-income and uninsured patients’ families get access to cancer care.
  • Texas Oncology connects families to resources in the greater Austin area including counseling, care assistance, and cancer navigation services.
  • Learn ways to cope holistically via Kelly Frick: Connect. She combines health and wellness coaching to guide individuals to a connection of self-care and healing.
  • Colon Hydrotherapy helps stimulate the immune system, increasing the appetite and improves the body’s circulatory function. You deserve a better you.

Now that you have had a chance to go back to school with these quick links. Dig into the educational materials to raise awareness, share on Facebook and let friends and family know the importance of getting screened. Share your success stories. It could save a life.

Deborah Price