There is more to March besides dusting off that outfit of green for St. Patrick’s Day. March is also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Spreading the awareness of colorectal cancer is essential, especially since its month of awareness is not widely known.
Dr. Kevin Dalby, professor at The University of Texas at Austin, is one of the dedicated scientists working towards cancer drug discovery. Though the future of cancer treatments holds hope, Dalby expresses the importance of education and awareness of cancer types such as colorectal cancer and how taking the appropriate steps can save lives.
Colorectal cancer is cancer found in the colon or rectum. It is the third most common cancer found in both men and women in the United States, with more than 145,600 people predicted to undergo diagnosis this year. Also, colorectal cancer lies in second place for cancer-caused deaths and will kill more than 51,000 people this year.
The majority of colorectal cancer patients fall over the age of 50. However, unfortunately, it is becoming more prevalent for younger individuals to die from colorectal cancer, often due to misdiagnosis or lack of detection and treatment. Now, research shows that ten percent of new patients with a colorectal cancer diagnosis will fall under the age of 50.
Several factors contribute to some individuals being more at risk of colorectal cancer than others. Those with inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis are more prone to this type of cancer. People with genetic syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome) also have a higher diagnosis probability. Individuals with a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer are at risk, as well.
Avoid any lifestyle characteristics that may increase your chances of a colorectal cancer diagnosis. Risky lifestyle factors include obesity or being overweight, immoderate alcohol consumption, smoking, absence of consistent physical activity, or a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.
It is common for someone to have colorectal cancer and not even know it. Symptoms might not show at first, and it is vital to speak with a doctor immediately if they do. Colorectal cancer symptoms include irregular bowel movements, blood in or on the stool, unusually narrow stools, reoccurring stomach pain, cramps, or aches, unclear sudden weight loss, continuous fatigue, and vomiting.
Early detection and treatment can make colorectal cancer something wholly preventable and treatable. Since colorectal cancer symptoms are sometimes not visible, individuals must consider starting any regular screening.
On November 19, 1999, the White House officially designated the month of March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. This month helps saves lives by bringing awareness to others of all ages to take the appropriate actions to catch colorectal cancer before it is too late through regular screenings. Such screenings can identify precancerous polyps and have them removed before they become cancerous. The earlier treatment takes place, the more effective it is in the end.
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas at Austin, he is examining cellular mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments, and teaching and motivating students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments