February 24, 2011

Day to raise awareness of colorectal cancer

Day to raise awareness of colorectal cancer

Just as the color pink is associated with breast cancer, blue is now linked to colon cancer awareness, and Friday, March 4, is this year's Dress in Blue Day.

The annual event is celebrated the first Friday of March, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

“Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, so it's important for everyone to start talking with their friends and family about the importance of early screening for this deadly disease,” said Sheila Bates, community outreach manager in Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's Office of Patient and Community Education.

Colorectal cancer often has few symptoms until the cancer is at an advanced stage.

That's why it is crucial for individuals to consider their colorectal cancer risk and to have a colon screening at the appropriate time.

Approximately 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. Advanced age, obesity, a poor diet and lack of exercise all contribute to colon cancer risk. Everyone is advised to start screening beginning at age 50, or even earlier for those who have persistent colon problems or a family history of the disease.

“Colon cancer is largely preventable through early detection,” said Reid Ness, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and a VICC expert on colonoscopies.

“During a colonoscopy, we look for polyps attached to the lining of the colon. If allowed to grow, these polyps can become cancerous, so removing them actually prevents the development of cancer.”