On February 29, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, past president of Des Moines University, signed a proclamation naming March “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” in the state. Given that I hit a big-OH birthday this year, that caught my eye.
Colorectal canceris cancer that starts in either the colon or the rectum. According to the National Cancer Institute, this year more than 143,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It is the fourth most common cancer in men, after skin, prostate and lung cancer. It’s also the fourth most common cancer among women, after skin, breast and lung cancer.
No one knows the exact causes of colorectal cancer, but studies have found the following are risk factors:
- Age over 50
- Colorectal polyps
- Family history of colorectal cancer
- Genetic predispositions
- Personal history of cancer
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease
- Diet, especially those high in fat and low in calcium, folate and fiber
- Cigarette smoking
While colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., early diagnosis often leads to a complete cure. Tests include blood analysis, colonoscopy, and CT and MRI scans of the abdomen.
To help raise public awareness about colorectal cancer in central Iowa, tonight from 5 to 7 p.m., physicians and staff of Mercy’s Cancer Center, Clinical Laboratory and Gastroenterology Clinic, along with representatives from Iowa Digestive Disease Center (IDDC), will staff a phone bank at the studio of KCCI-TV to answer questions and provide information about colorectal cancer symptoms, risk factors and colonoscopies. If you need an extra incentive to stop by KCCI, 888 Ninth Street downtown, you can walk through the Super Colon, provided by Davids Fight, to see what polyps and cancer tissue look like compared to normal colon tissue.
The Super Colon also will make an appearance on March 8 in the atrium at Iowa Methodist Medical Center, 1200 Pleasant Street. Iowa Methodist’s John Stoddard Cancer Center will be promoting Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and will have information on the risks associated with colorectal cancer.
Any cancer is scary, so it’s great we have effective ways to detect colorectal cancer to ensure early treatment. And while getting a colonoscopy – defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine as “an internal examination of the colon (large intestine) and rectum, using an instrument called a colonoscope” – doesn’t sound like much fun, it’s a largely painless procedure that can save lives. Want a compelling (and laugh-out-loud) description of the experience? Check out Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry’s tale of the tube. Just be sure to read his convincing conclusion on why all of us 50-plus-somethings should be glad to get this important test.