The Big FIVE-O

March 24, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Time to start screening for colon/colorectal cancer. NOW!


The Facts:

March is National Colon/Colorectal Awareness Month.

The lifetime risk for being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is 1 in 19.

90% of all colon cancer diagnoses are in people age 50 or older.

It is the third leading cancer diagnosis in men and the fourth in women.

The disease strikes about 150, 000 people and causes approximately 50,000 deaths per year.

African-American’s are the highest racial or ethnic group at risk in the U.S.

The disease usually starts with a polyp.

The 5 year survival rate for those diagnosed early is 90%

Only 39% of those diagnosed are diagnosed early.

Seven Steps to Lowering Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

From the Prevent Cancer Foundation (formerly the Cancer Research Foundation of America)

1. Get regular colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 50. (Talk to your health care provider about starting early if you have indicators of a higher risk.)

2. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and whole grains from breads, cereals, nuts and beans.

3. Eat a low-fat diet.

4. Eat foods with folate such as leafy green vegetables.

5. If you use alcohol, drink only in moderation.

6. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start.

7. Exercise for at least 20 minutes three or four days each week.

For more detailed information of risk factors due to personal history, inherited syndromes, lifestyle and unproven risk factors please visit the

American Cancer Society online.

Symptoms, Testing and Treatment:

Early stages are most likely to be asymptomatic. Later symptoms include:

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stools

Testing will depend on your history but may include a yearly stool testing, a colonoscopy every 10 years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years. Further testing includes a CT colonoscopy every 5 years and a double contrast barium enema every 5 years.

What is stool testing? This is a type of test that generally includes a screening slide which tests a sample of stool for the presence of blood through a chemical reaction. This may be done in the doctor’s office or through a take home kit. Many foods affect the test so you will be given instructions on what foods to avoid for a period before the test. There are several different types of tests for stool in the blood. This test does not indicate the presence or absence of polyps.

What is a colorectal polyp? A polyp is a small tissue growth in the rectum or colon. Appearance of polyps tends to increase with age. Polyps may be discovered due to rectal bleeding or on a colonoscopy. They should be removed and tested for cancer. Some polyps are benign, some are considered pre-cancerous and some are malignant. When a malignant cancer occurs it may be necessary to also remove part of the surrounding tissue.

Treatment of Colon/Colorectal Cancer:

  • Surgery is the most common treatment
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation is included when cancer has spread

For more information on treatment options for the 5 stages of colon cancer, including clinical trials and biologic treatment options visit the National Cancer Institute site.

Roadblocks to early diagnosis:

Initiatives from across the cancer community in America have come together to encourage state legislatures to adopt legislation requiring insurance carriers to cover the cost of preventative screening.

New laws have increased coverage in the U.S. to 54 % of the population compared to 49% at the end of 2006.

In 2004 a coalition of organizations committed to early detection and prevention of colon cancer began the Colorectal Cancer Legislation Report Card.

Find out what grade your state got in the most recent report card and visit the C3:Colorectal Cancer Coalition site for more information on how to contact your legislator with the message to pass colorectal cancer legislation.

More online resources:

National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT): A partnership of over 50 members whose goal is to improve communication, collaboration and coordination among health-agencies, medical professional organizations and the public.

National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA): a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation founded by journalist Katie Couric, cancer activist Lilly Tartikoff and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA): “brings the voice of survivors to battle colorectal cancer through patient support, education, research and advocacy.”

The Sharon Osbourne Colon Cancer Program at Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai: Inspired by the care Sharon Osbourne received at Cedars-Sinai, “the program works to improve the lives of patients and their loved ones by providing at-home help, childcare and transportation, access to support groups and patient care services offered at Cedars-Sinai. The program also underwrites colon cancer education for health-care providers.”


The American Cancer Society’s Complete Guide to Colorectal Cancer (2005, Non-Fiction)

It’s Half Past Midnight: A Poignant, Practical and Humorous Trip Through My Colon by Robert Cull (2007, Memoir)

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3 Responses to “The Big FIVE-O”
  1. Missy Tippens says:

    Your post was packed full of info, Tina. Thank you!

    After my dad was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, I made an appointment for a colonoscopy, even though I was only 43. My doctor agreed readily and scheduled it for me, but she seemed surprised when she found 2 polyps! Now I’m on an every 3-year schedule. And my dad won’t miss another colonoscopy either!

  2. Good for you, Mary. 🙂

  3. Mary C says:

    I’m doing all my ‘good girl’ routine check-ups. I’ll add this one.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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