Two out of three people diagnosed with colorectal cancer survive the disease and early detection improves the survival rate. More than 90 percent of stage 1 colon cancer cases are cured, according to the advocacy group Fight Colorectal Cancer.
During March, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the organization’s One Million Strong campaign is particularly important to survivors of the disease and their families, as well as the general public. Its name is taken from the 1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States.
“We want to unify survivors and those touched by this preventable cancer,” said Carlea Bauman, president of Fight Colorectal Cancer. “We believe that together, as a community, we can amplify our collective voice and motivate others to stand up and support the fight for a cure.”
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer, which includes both colon and rectal cancers, is the third most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. By the end of 2013, an estimated 143,000 new cases will be reported and nearly 51,000 deaths nationwide from the disease are expected this year.
But health experts say the biggest preventive step that people can take is to have a colonoscopy, a 30-minute procedure in which a patient is sedated while a doctor inserts a tube with a camera on the end of it into the patient’s anus to check the colon for cancerous or precancerous growths.
While routine colonoscopies are called for every few years for people over the age of 50, those who are younger with risk factors such as a family history of colon cancer are encouraged to have the screenings done. Symptoms to watch for include bloody stools, persistent stomach pain or irregular bowel movements.
In addition to screenings, Health24.com recommends following a fiber-rich diet to keep the colon healthy. Soluble fiber found in fruit, grains and legumes help to bind bile acids and lower blood cholesterol levels. Drinking water regularly helps the fiber to swell to regulate bowel movements. High fiber in one’s diet also helps to keep cholesterol levels down.
Yogurt and vegetables such as artichokes, onions, garlic and mushrooms, also improve regularity and support the formation of colonic microflora, or “good” bacteria, that aids digestion and boosts immunity. Taking dietary supplements such as Super C22 from Dr. Newton’s Naturals protects the immune system with 22 forms of vitamin C, is anti-inflammatory, restores energy and helps to relieve stress.