March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time when health care and research organizations across the nation attempt to make people aware of this common form of cancer. It's an important message for seniors of all ages, who may be more at risk for this type of cancer that younger individuals. But for seniors at Cambridge Court assisted living community, there is some good news about this disease.
While colorectal cancer affects seniors more than any other type of cancer, survival rates have increased dramatically in the past two decades. The ability to find and remove polyps before they become cancerous is a big part of that positive trend, which makes getting regular health checkups and screenings incredibly important in the battle against colon or rectal cancers.
Here are some facts about colorectal cancer to help keep you informed to make early detection even more likely.
The majority of people — almost 90 percent — who are diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer are over the age of 50. That means screenings become even more important as you age.
Family history plays a prominent role in the development of these diseases. Around 20 percent of people who develop colorectal cancer have had a family member with the disease.
Crohn's disease or inflammatory bowel disorder can increase your risks of developing colon cancer. This is because these diseases cause inflamation in the colon that lasts for a long time, and that can lead to abnormal cells that eventually become cancerous. If you have been diagnosed with these conditions, it's important to let your health care providers know so you can be screened regularly. Note that IBD is not the same as IBS; IBS is not known to increase your risks of colorectal cancer.
Unhealthy habits, including poor diet, inactivity, smoking and alcohol abuse can all increase your chances of colorectal cancer. Eating a long-term diet that is high in red or processed meats such as beef steaks or hotdogs is also associated with higher risks of these cancers.
If you aren't seeing your health care provider for regular well checks and appropriate screenings, March is a great time to call and schedule an appointment. And if you don't have a primary care physician or are having a hard time scheduling screenings or appointments, reach out the to assisted living staff. They're always available to provide assistance, answer some basic medical questions and help you make the appointments you need to protect your own health.