National Colorectal Cancer Month

We recognize National Colorectal Cancer Month to raise awareness for the third most common type of cancer in the United States. With well over 100,000 new cases each year and over one million cases total colon cancer is becoming a huge problem. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC reported that colorectal cancer screenings dropped roughly 90% and diagnoses fell by 32%. By June, this decline in screening put 18,000 people at risk for delayed or missed diagnoses and will lead to additional deaths from this preventable disease. We all know screening is safe, important and there are options, but do our patients?

Thanks to National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a much-needed spotlight is being cast on the importance of early detection. In March, we come together to provide hope and advocate for awareness and spread the word that with early detection of this disease, it is estimated that well over half of the deaths that occur annually could be prevented. So, who is at risk?

According to the American Cancer Society, anyone can develop colon cancer, but some studied risk factors include: A diet that’s high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (like hot dogs and deli meat) raises your colorectal cancer risk, as well as age and smoking. The best thing to avoid colon cancer is to stay active, don’t smoke, eat a diet full of vegetables instead of excess red meat, and get regular colon screenings, starting at age 45, or younger, if you have a family member who has had this cancer.

We know that colon cancer is treatable and not necessarily a death sentence, but most people don’t realize that the reason the cancer is more deadly for U.S. adults is because 20-25% of patients have metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis. Still, this may be cured with a range of treatment options available, including surgery to remove the cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, depending on how far the cancer has spread. Luckily, in the year 2000 President Clinton finally officially recognized National Colorectal Cancer Month. Since then, various organizations have worked together to try and raise awareness and increase early detection.

There are many ways to show our support throughout the month of March. Most establishments do so by wearing dark blue ribbons or clothing on the designated day in March each year. However, we all should wear a blue ribbon or blue clothing for the ENTIRE month of March. By doing so, this sparks the interest of those around us and especially our patients, giving us the opportunity to help spread awareness of this preventable disease.

~Becky Jensen, QI Specialist