Governor Branstad will sign a state proclamation Wednesday, February 22, recognizing March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in Iowa. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Iowa and seven out of 10 people diagnosed with colorectal cancer had no signs or symptoms. Because it is often preventable and can be 90 percent treatable if detected early, all Iowans age 50 and over are encouraged to get screened for colorectal cancer.
“The simple fact is that screening saves lives,” said IDPH Colorectal Cancer Program coordinator Jeanna Jones. “Even so, the American Cancer Society estimates four out of every 10 adults who should get tested, don’t. They may believe they’re not at risk, they don’t need testing because they don’t have symptoms, or they simply want to avoid what they consider to be an embarrassing procedure – but these myths only mean they are delaying what could be life-saving treatment.” Here are the facts about these common mistaken beliefs about colorectal cancer:
- “I’m not at risk.” Fact: Risk increases with age. More than 90 percent of colorectal cancer occurs in people aged 50 and older. Those with a family history of colorectal cancer or individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are also at higher risk.
- “I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need screening.” Fact: Many people who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer have no symptoms and people with polyps (small, non-cancerous growths in the colon which can become cancerous if not removed) rarely have symptoms. If you wait to get tested until after symptoms develop, you might miss the chance to prevent the disease or stop its spread.
- “It’s an embarrassing test.” Fact: There are actually a number of different tests for colorectal cancer and some can be done in the privacy of your home. Most people are familiar with the colonoscopy, which is performed by a specialist in a hospital or outpatient center in a private room. People who have a colonoscopy are given medicine to help them relax and many people sleep through the exam.
In addition to age and family history, other risk factors for colorectal cancer include lack of regular physical activity, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, a low-fiber, high-fat diet, being overweight, regular alcohol consumption, and tobacco use. To learn more about colorectal cancer, visit http://www.idph.iowa.gov/igs/public.