Building awareness

Nobody likes to think about being checked for cancer, it can be a scary thing, but organizers behind Colon Cancer Awareness Month are hoping fears will be set aside as it’s all about ultimately saving lives and of course continuing to build awareness.

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month across Canada, and one of the goals is also encourage folks to undergo screening. We all know the sooner it’s detected; the greater chances are it can be cured.

There’s no question it’s a frightening thing to think about, not to mention the procedures one may have to undergo to settle the issue. Colonoscopies aren’t anyone’s idea of a pleasant experience, but they are certainly necessary and for the moments of discomfort it is ultimately worth it.

The statistics demand attention. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of both male and female cancer-related deaths in Canada.

In 2012, about 23,3000 Canadians were diagnosed with colon cancer. Almost half of those diagnosed died. On average, 64 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer every day. And on average, 25 Canadians will die of it daily.

One in 13 men is expected to develop colorectal cancer during his lifetime and one in 28 will die of it. One in 16 women is expected to develop it during her lifetime and one in 32 will die of it.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there is no single cause of colorectal cancer, but some factors appear to increase the risk of developing it. These include being 50 or older, having polyps, a family history of colorectal cancer – especially if the relative developed colorectal cancer before the age of 45.

Other risk factors include a history of inflammatory bowel disease, a diet high in red meat, processed meat, alcohol consumption, smoking, physical inactivity and obesity.

But there is some good news amidst the grim statistics — according to Colon Cancer Canada, colon cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. And if caught early, over 90% of these cases could and should result in a full recovery.

This statistic really emphasizes the importance of being screened. There is hope if it’s caught early, and that cannot be stressed enough.

That means undergoing screening, which of course means having an open discussion with one’s doctor about what steps to take in that direction. Screening options depends on different factors, including age of the patient and how at risk they happen to be.

Whether you are average risk or considered high-risk, the place to start is to be open about talking about it. Too many people simply avoid the topic altogether, and tragically it’s sometimes too late when they are forced to face facts. The time to open the discussion is now.

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