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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Stop by Health 1st’s Wellness Wednesday table in the Children’s Hospital lobby between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. March 5 to receive information on colorectal cancer.
by Lucretia D. Wilson, R.N.
Awareness is a continuous process that can lead to increased knowledge, and increased knowledge about colorectal health can provide empowerment to make life-sustaining choices and decisions.
Each year, approximately 112,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer (CRC) and about 50,000 die from CRC. An estimated 30,000 or more lives are saved each year through early detection and screening for CRC. The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) encourages everyone 50 years of age and older, or those younger than 50 whose family has CRC history or other risk factors, to be screened for CRC. Recent literature suggests that “African-Americans have the greatest incidence of colorectal cancer than any other racial or ethnic group.” As a result, blacks are urged, due to higher cancer risk, to get screened for CRC at age 45 years.
According to ASGE, colon cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Counter to the belief that it is a predominately a male’s disease, women are equally afflicted. Fortunately, with increased awareness, screening and early detection, CRC is highly preventable, treatable and has an excellent cure rate.
Primary prevention of CRC includes dietary modification and prevention of environmental exposure, according to published medical studies. Other preventative recommendations, according to the American Cancer Society, include:
  • Engage in physical activity five or more days a week, at least 30 minutes a day, at least 10 minutes at a time. Even small amounts of exercise on a regular basis can be helpful.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods and avoid high-fat, high-sugar and low-fiber foods.
  • Supplement your healthy diet by taking a daily multi-vitamin that includes calcium and folate or folic acid.
  • Avoid alcohol, or drink alcohol in moderate amounts.
  • Ask your medical provider about taking aspirin as a preventive measure.
Screening is classified by the individual’s level of risk based on personal, family, and medical history, which will determine the appropriate approach to screening in that individual. Of the screening modalities offered, a colonoscopy is the gold standard, because it is diagnostic and therapeutic. It allows the endoscopist to visualize the entire large intestine and remove polyps, which are growths that can develop in the colon and are potentially cancerous. A colonoscopy is usually offered every 10 years depending on patient’s history.

Recommended criteria for screening of individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps, according to National Clearinghouse guidelines, are:
  • People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with colon cancer;
  • Adenomatous polyps diagnosed at younger than 60 years or two first-degree relatives diagnosed with colorectal cancer at any age should be advised to have screening;
  • Colonoscopy starting at age 40 years or 10 years younger than the earliest;
  • Diagnosis in their family, which ever comes first; and repeated every five years;
  • People with a first-degree relative with colon cancer or adenomatous polyp;
  • Diagnosed at age 60 years or younger or two second-degree relatives with colorectal cancer should be advised to be screened at age 40 years.
  • People with one second-degree relative (grandparent, aunt, or uncle) or third-degree relative (great-grandparent or cousin) with colorectal cancer should be advised to be screened as average risk persons.
Consult your primary care physician for evaluation of your colon screening needs. For information, e-mail

Friday, Feb. 29, 2008
Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.