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Colorectal Cancer and the Danger of Putting Your Health on Hold

March 04, 2021

What’s on your “to do” list that you have been putting off during the pandemic? Yoga classes? Dentist appointment? Getting the car washed? One-year since some of the first COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders it seems easier to justify procrastinating and postponing some activities or chores. But a recommended colonoscopy should not be one of them.

According to the Health Care Cost Institute, colonoscopies fell almost 90% early in the pandemic and were still down 11% last fall. What’s more, data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) projects as many as 10,000 additional deaths during the next 10 years from colorectal and breast cancer alone as a direct result of failure to get screened during the pandemic.

While these statistics are concerning, there’s no better time to reverse the trend and prioritize your health. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Don’t let fear of COVID-19 stand in the way of your health. Doctors’ offices and medical providers are taking extra precautions to ensure healthcare facilities are safe for patient appointments and screenings. Make a plan to protect yourself against colorectal cancer through awareness, education, and prevention.

Know Your Risk

More than 90% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed in people age 50 and older; however, recent research indicates the disease is on the rise in younger adults. According to NCI, people born around 1990 have two times the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer compared to people born around 1950. Additionally, cases are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage in adults younger than 50 compared to older adults. Your physician can help determine your personal cancer risk and when to start screenings.

Smarten Up About Screenings

Being vigilant and on guard when it comes to colorectal cancer is key. The disease typically lacks symptoms in its early stages – when treatment is the most effective. Screenings also provide the opportunity to find and remove polyps before they develop into colorectal cancer. Speak with your physician about which of the several available tests is right for you. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends patients start with a colonoscopy at the age of 45; however, a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps suggests beginning screenings earlier than age 45.

Take Care of Your Body

Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a nutritious diet can reduce your risk of several cancer types, including colorectal cancer. According to American Association for Cancer Research, up to 16% of colorectal cancers are associated with physical inactivity. Whether you walk, bike, or practice yoga, make time to get moving every day. To give your body the fuel it needs, limit your intake of red and processed meats – which can increase risk for colorectal cancer – and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined in the U.S. In Texas, the ACS predicts 11,280 Texans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, with 4,030 estimated deaths. Let’s reverse the trend this Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – take action to move taking care of your gastrointestinal health from your “to-do” list to your “done” list. You won’t regret the decision.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.