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Why Colorectal Screenings Can’t Wait

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Valerie Award

Colorectal Cancer Alliance

My husband was one of them. After he was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer, I dedicated myself to ensuring that the pain and panic that comes with diagnosis touches fewer families. I continue this work now as a patient and family support navigator at the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Here’s why you can’t miss screenings:

Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women combined in the United States. According to estimates, more than 50,000 Americans will lose their lives to colorectal cancer this year. You can’t gamble with those statistics.

Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp that can be removed

No one is immune to colorectal cancer, but screening gives us a powerful defense. Most colorectal cancers begin as a polyp, or an abnormal tissue growth. While most are harmless, some polyps can become cancer over time. Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy isn’t the only option

Screening helps your doctor find polyps or cancer before symptoms appear. The American Cancer Society says screening should begin at 45, but you may need screening earlier, depending on risk factors and family medical history. Ask a doctor for advice, and be aware of screening options. From take-home tests to the colonoscopy, screening is easier than ever for average-risk individuals.

You are never too young for colorectal cancer

Most people are in their 60s or 70s when diagnosed with colorectal cancer. But about one in 10 are diagnosed before 50. Our research shows young people are often diagnosed at later stages of the disease, sometimes due to a lack of a speedy diagnosis or a belief the patient is too young.

Symptoms vary and may not appear at all

Early signs of colorectal cancer often do not include pain. Only medical professionals can determine the cause of your symptoms. Symptoms include the following:

  • Change in bowel habits, including diarrhea, constipation, and narrow stools
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas, pain, or feeling bloated
  • Rectal bleeding, including either bright red or very dark blood in your stool
  • Weakness, fatigue, and losing weight for no reason

Remember, the most common symptom of colorectal cancer is no symptom, which is why we call it a silent killer. For help or information, visit ccalliance.org or call (877) 422-2030.

Valerie Award, Colorectal Cancer Alliance, [email protected]

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