By Jim Zheng, MS, CRA, MRSO, RT(MR)
Colorectal cancer (CRC) awareness month is observed every March. CRC is the third most
commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. This
year in the United States, an estimated 150,000 new cases of CRC are expected to be diagnosed
as well as over 50,000 deaths. Despite the significant impact of this disease, many people are
unaware of the risk factors and the importance of early detection. The goal of CRC awareness
month is to highlight the importance of screening, promote healthy lifestyle habits, and
empower individuals to take preventative measures.
CRC is a type of cancer that affects the colon or rectum. It typically starts as a small growth or
polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum, which can develop into cancer over time.
Symptoms of CRC may include changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain or discomfort, blood in
the stool, fatigue, and unintended weight loss. CRC screening is the method of detecting CRC in
its early stages and precancerous lesions in persons who are asymptotic and have no prior
Overall lifetime risk is about 1 in 23 men and 1 in 26 women will develop CRC. Several risk
factors increase the likelihood of developing CRC.
- Age: The risk of CRC increases with age, with most cases occurring in individuals over the age of 50.
- Personal or family history of CRC or polyps: Individuals with a personal or family history of CRC or polyps are at an increased risk of developing the disease.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Individuals with IBD, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, are at an increased risk of developing CRC.
- Diet: A diet high in red and processed meats, low in fiber, and high in saturated fats can increase the risk of CRC.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity is associated with an increased risk of CRC.
- Smoking and alcohol consumption: Both smoking and heavy alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of CRC.
The good news is that the death rate has been dropping in both men and women for many years now and early detection has been critical. Measures can be taken to prevent CRC or detect it at an early stage, they center around proper screening and healthy lifestyle choices.
Screening for CRC is recommended for individuals aged 50 and above. Those with a personal or family history of CRC may need to begin screening at an earlier age. Screening tests include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and fecal occult blood tests.
- Maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity can reduce the risk of CRC.
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption as they both can increase the risk of CRC.
Colorectal Cancer is a common and serious disease that affects a large number of individuals
worldwide. Understanding the risk factors and taking preventative measures can help reduce
the incidence of the disease. Regular screening and healthy lifestyle choices are key to early
detection and prevention. Increased awareness of the importance of CRC screening and
prevention can save lives and improve outcomes for those affected by this disease.
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Jim Zheng is the Director of Radiology at Beth-Israel Deaconess Hospital in Needham, MA. He is a current member of the AHRA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and can be reached at email@example.com