Awareness key in combating colorectal cancer

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is an annual celebration during the month of March to raise awareness of colorectal cancer. 
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Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of death among men and women in the U.S., and it is continuing to rise each year.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 100,000 new colorectal cancer cases this year.

Florida is predicted to have over 11,000 new cases for the year as colorectal cancer increases.

Colorectal cancer starts as a growth in the colon or the rectum. These growths are also known as polyps. Through an annual colon cancer screening known as a colonoscopy, early detection of these polyps can be an effective treatment.

With March designated as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, coalitions and programs across the nation are promoting ways for people to get screened, learn more about colon cancer, diminish misconceptions, and inform people about recent data.

In a recent study of more than 85,000 women conducted by The Journal of the American Medical Association, it found that people who suffered from obesity faced a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer before the age of 50.

This study was also similar to the National Cancer Institute as it learned people who are obese are 30 percent more likely to develop colorectal cancer.

As doctors use a body mass index to provide a ratio of weight to height, this study also found that for a person with a higher BMI there could be a direct link to a person's risk of developing colon cancer.

Ali Poonawala, director of Colonoscopyassist, a colon cancer screening program, said with an increase of young adults dealing with colon cancer there are several factors that can reduce these numbers.

“Getting screened early is a must for reducing these numbers. If there is a family history of colorectal cancer, screenings should be done earlier than the recommended age of 45 to ensure no precancerous polyps are found,” said Poonawala.

“Other factors can decrease your risk such as staying healthy by eating fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly,” he added.

To ensure people live a healthier lifestyle, national initiatives and campaigns have started a way to spread awareness about colon cancer and provide support for people living with it.

One national awareness campaign, known as  “Don’t Assume," wants people to not assume that they cannot be impacted by colorectal cancer or assume that they are alone in this fight.

Raising awareness to help people affected by it and also informing others about cancer is their goal.

Gabrielle Vereen, a first-year doctor of pharmacy candidate, said that awareness is the key to reducing this epidemic.

“People can learn about the different symptoms to look for with that particular disease and possibly save their life or someone else who may be seeing those symptoms,” said Vereen.

“Raising awareness is known to change one’s perspective and change knowledge and one’s attitude about a situation,” she said.

Another way programs are pushing to raise awareness about colon cancer is by educating others on information that they may be unaware of.

Poonawala said that some might not be familiar with preventative cancer as well as multiple screenings for colorectal cancer.

“An important fact that some might not know is that colorectal cancer is the most preventable, yet least prevented cancer. People might be unaware that there are also multiple screening methods for colorectal cancer,” said Poonawala.

“Colonoscopies are not the only way to be screened and some screening methods can be completed from the comfort of your own home such as the FOBT/FIT tests or Cologuard,” he added.

Through health screenings, campaigns and initiatives discussing colorectal cancer, this month is committed to pushing for more awareness among men and women.