Welcome to March — National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Today we begin spreading the word that colorectal cancer is Preventable, Treatable, and Beatable.
- Screening does more than find colon cancer at an early stage when it is most curable — it actually can prevent it from ever occurring by finding and removing the polyps that, left alone, can develop into cancer. People without special risks should begin screening at age 50. African-Americans should begin screening at age 45.
- People with higher than average risk should be tested with colonoscopies earlier in life and more often. Higher risk includes a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, a history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, or a family history of inherited colorectal cancer syndrome such as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or familial adenomatous polyposis.
- Some lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Maintaining normal weight, not smoking, exercising, and eating less red meat make colorectal cancer less likely but don’t replace screening.
- Found at an early stage, colorectal cancer is 90% curable with surgery alone.
- New chemotherapy treatments given after surgery for larger cancers and cancer that has spread to nearby lymph nodes have increased the percentage of patients whose cancer will not return.
- In even the most difficult stage, when cancer has spread far beyond the colon, newly discovered chemotherapy drugs and targeted biologic agents have doubled the time patients can expect to live. More than half of advanced colorectal cancer patients can now survive more than 2 years.
- A few years ago, there was basically one drug used to treat colorectal cancer, and it had been in use for more than 50 years. Today there are four drugs and two targeted biologic agents that can be combined in a variety of standard treatments. More drugs and more targeted therapies are part of an active and promising research program.
- We are learning volumes about what cancer and pre-cancer looks like deep within cells. Information about genes and proteins is helping to pinpoint who is a greatest risk for the disease, who will benefit from what treatment, and how treatment can be targeted to help destroy cancer without hurting healthy tissue.
- Although the percentage of people who have had a colorectal cancer screening test is still abysmally low, it is slowly increasing. Awareness is growing. Colon cancer, once a unspeakable secret, gets talked about.
We are making progress, but there is a long, long way to go. The mission of C3 – Colorectal Cancer Coalition is to end suffering and death from colorectal cancer. We do this by speaking up as advocates in the research community, in federal and state agencies, to Congress and the President, and in our own communities.
During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month we are joined by 58 NCRCAM partner organizations; thousands of volunteers speaking out in their communities by swinging hockey sticks, rollerskating, walking, running, and raising funds for awareness and research; and over one million survivors of colorectal cancer who are determined that no one should have to suffer or die from this disease.
Join with us and help make a difference this March . . . and throughout the rest of the year.