Charles S. Kuzma, M.D.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas launched its annual Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month reminder on March 1 to raise awareness about the importance of colorectal (or colon) cancer screenings.
In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined.
The American Cancer Society’s (ACS) estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2019 are:
- 101,420 new cases of colon cancer
- 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer
One in 23 Americans will be diagnosed with this cancer in their lifetime; one in five of those will be diagnosed before the age of 55.
The good news? The death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades. There are a number of likely reasons for this. One is that colorectal polyps are now being found more often by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers or are being found earlier when the disease is easier to treat. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last few decades. As a result, there are now more than one million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
FirstHealth is working diligently to spread the word about the importance of colorectal cancer screenings in an effort to make these screenings a routine part of preventive health care.
Charles S. Kuzma, M.D., an oncologist with the FirstHealth Outpatient Cancer Center, offers tips on how to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer:
- Get a colonoscopy if you are between the ages of 50 – 75 or earlier if you are at high risk for colorectal cancer. People at a higher risk, such as those with a strong family history of colorectal cancer, may benefit from starting screenings at an earlier age. Also, it is recommended that African-Americans begin their screening at age 45.A colonoscopy detects more than 95 percent of early colorectal cancer. The procedure also prevents colorectal cancer because a doctor can remove polyps (small growths) that may develop into cancer if left alone.
- Maintain a healthy weight, and adopt a physically active lifestyle.
- Understand the symptoms, and talk with your doctor if you experience blood in your stool, chronic constipation or unexplained weight-loss.
- Consume a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting consumption of red and processed meats.
- Limit your alcohol consumption and don’t smoke.
Screening colonoscopies for colorectal cancer are performed by gastroenterologists. For information on gastroenterologists in the FirstHealth of the Carolinas service area, visit www.firsthealth.org/50. For more information on cancer services provided by FirstHealth, visit www.NCCancerCare.org.