March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The goal of this national health event is to raise awareness that colorectal cancer is largely preventable, treatable and curable.

Colorectal cancer (also called colon cancer) generally develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum and can almost always be prevented with screening tests. These screening tests can detect polyps so they can be removed before they develop into cancer.

The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of cases occur in people aged 50 and older. Raising awareness is an important part of helping expand screening and reduce mortality.

As with many diseases, the best protection against colorectal cancer is early detection. Symptoms may include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Cramping or gnawing pain in the abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days.
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

But in many cases, there are no symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease, when colorectal cancer is most treatable. Everyone should take possible symptoms of colorectal cancer seriously and bring them to the attention of their healthcare provider.

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