March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

In recognition of March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, BJC Help for Your Health is encouraging employees to understand the risk factors for colorectal cancer. For the ninth year, employees who commit to colorectal cancer prevention have an opportunity to win home exercise equipment valued at $1,000.

Eligible employees must:

  • pledge to schedule or encourage a family member or friend to schedule a screening test in 2017, based on the American Cancer Society guidelines or the advice of their physician
  • promote healthy nutrition and exercise in 2017
  • complete an educational quiz about colorectal cancer
  • turn in the completed pledge form by March 31
Learn more about colon cancer

Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., with about 140,000 people diagnosed each year, and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S. Colorectal cancer refers to cancers in the colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps, abnormal growths that may become cancers over a long period of time.

The good news is that individuals can take steps to prevent colon cancer by changing certain risk factors. Some changeable risk factors include not getting screened; being overweight; eating a diet high in red and processed meat; having low physical activity; drinking too much alcohol; smoking; and being low in certain nutrients.

Though colon cancer is preventable, there are a number of important risk factors that people can’t control, such as age, family history, being tall and having inflammatory bowel disease. Up to 5-6 percent of all colon cancers in the United States are caused by inherited colon cancer syndromes.

It’s important to note that 75 percent of patients with colon cancer have no symptoms, and 75 percent of patients with colorectal cancer have no family history. This means starting patient colon cancer screening at age 50 is very important. Several different colorectal cancer screening tests are used for detecting colon cancer, and they should be done at certain intervals.

The incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing in patients younger than 50. This age group represents about 10-12 percent of the total 140,000 cases/year. Alarmingly, cancers in the under-50 population are diagnosed at later stages and appear to be more aggressive tumor types, both of which have implications for prognosis and survival.

Overall, however, the death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for more than 20 years. This can be due to several factors. One is that polyps are being found by screening and removed before they can grow into cancers. Screening also allows more colorectal cancers to be found earlier, when the disease is easier to cure. Also, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the past several years. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.

Sources: Siteman Cancer Center and American Cancer Society

Take the BJC Help for Your Health Colorectal Cancer Awareness Quiz to test your level of colorectal cancer knowledge.

BJC Employees: Print out the quiz, answer the questions and submit for a chance to win a piece of exercise equipment valued at $1,000. 

BJC Employees: Take the quiz online below. (proceed to online quiz)

According to the National Stroke Association, strokes cannot be prevented. True or False?


False - According to the National Stroke Association, up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. To prevent stroke, start by getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. Also:

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Report any episodes of missed or irregular heartbeats.
  • Find out if you have high cholesterol.
  • Treat circulation problems such as blocked arteries, sickle cell disease and severe anemia.
Anyone can have a stroke, although certain stroke risk factors increase the chance:
  • High blood pressure (greater than 140/90 for people without diabetes or greater than 130/80 for people with diabetes)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugar
  • Heart disease and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Sickle cell disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity

Some stroke risk factors cannot be changed:

  • Age - The risk of stroke doubles for every decade after 55
  • Family history of stroke in a parent, grandparent, sister or brother
  • Previous stroke or TIA
  • Sex - Men have a higher risk at younger ages, while women have a higher risk over 85
  • Race/ethnicity

Hispanics have a higher risk of stroke than other races. True or False?


False - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives are more likely to have a stroke than are other groups. The risk of having a first stroke is nearly twice as high for blacks as for whites, while Hispanics’ risk for stroke falls between that of whites and blacks.

It’s critical that a stroke victim receive evaluation and proper treatment quickly to minimize injury to brain tissue. True or False?


True - Call 911, if you suspect these signs of a stroke:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body
  • Sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye
  • Loss of speech, or trouble talking or understanding speech
  • Sudden severe headache with no apparent cause
  • Sudden episodes of difficulty walking or unexplained dizziness or unsteadiness; especially in combination with any of the previously noted symptoms

Other less common symptoms of stroke may include sudden nausea or vomiting, fainting, confusion, seizures, or coma. A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or “mini-stroke,” may also occur. TIAs may be warning signs of stroke about to occur.

Stroke victims show different symptoms, depending on the type of stroke (ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke), where exactly the stroke occurs in their brain, and how acute the bleeding is. Stroke symptoms happen suddenly and simultaneously, but not all symptoms may occur.

Although strokes are usually sudden attacks, strokes also can occur over hours, or several small strokes can occur over time. Symptoms then build in intensity as the stroke becomes more acute.

Always take note of what time the stroke victim begins showing symptoms and call 911 immediately. It takes only a few seconds for the brain to stop functioning when a stroke causes a brain hemorrhage. The faster a stroke victim is treated, the less devastating the effects will be.

About 55,000 more strokes occur in women than men in the United States every year. True or False?


True - Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women and the fifth leading cause for men. On average, one in five women has a stroke, and about 55,000 more strokes occur in women than men in the United States every year. Several stroke risk factors are hormonal and unique to women, including pregnancy, oral birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy.

Some other stroke factors tend to be more common in women as well, such as atrial fibrillation, depression, diabetes, cerebral vein thrombosis and migraine headaches. Women also tend to live longer than men, giving them a longer time to be at risk for a stroke.

If a woman is taking oral birth control pills and has high blood pressure or smokes, her risk of suffering a blood clot and/or stroke increases significantly. Middle-aged women are also at a higher risk than younger women when taking birth control pills.

One high-risk stroke factor in pregnant women is the risk of preeclampsia (a blood pressure disorder during pregnancy). Women with high-blood pressure who become pregnant should take extra precautions and consult their physician about preventing preeclampsia and stroke. If a woman has preeclampsia, she is twice as likely to suffer a stroke. Preeclampsia is also a lifelong risk factor because it causes women to be four times more likely to have high blood pressure later in life.

Although hormone replacement therapy was previously thought to lower stroke risk, it actually increases the risk for a stroke.

Specific stroke risks in women also vary throughout life, depending on the time of pregnancies and menopause.

Ischemic stroke, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked, is the most common type of stroke. True or False?


True - The three main types of stroke are ischemic stroke, hemorrhagic stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA).

Most strokes (87 percent) are ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke happens when blood flow to the brain becomes blocked. Blood clots often cause the blockages that lead to ischemic strokes.
A hemorrhagic stroke happens when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures (breaks open). The leaked blood puts too much pressure on brain cells, which damages them. High blood pressure and aneurysms — balloon-like bulges in an artery that can stretch and burst — are examples of conditions that can cause a hemorrhagic stroke.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is sometimes called a "mini-stroke." It’s different from the major types of stroke because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short time — usually no more than five minutes. As with ischemic strokes, blood clots often cause TIAs.

It’s important to note that a TIA is a warning sign of a future stroke. More than a third of people who have a TIA and don’t get treatment have a major stroke within a year, and as many as 10-15 percent of people will have a major stroke within three months of a TIA.

Recognizing and treating TIAs can lower the risk of a major stroke. If you have a TIA, your health care team can find the cause and take steps to prevent a major stroke. Strokes and TIAs require emergency care. Call 911 right away if you feel signs of a stroke or see symptoms in someone around you. 


Barnes-Jewish Hospital Stroke Center

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Stroke Facts

Commit to Colorectal Cancer Awareness in March

One winner will be chosen from all entries to receive exercise equipment valued at $1,000. To be eligible, complete this form and submit it by March 31, 2017. The answers for the quiz will appear in the April 17, 2017, BJC TODAY.

By entering my name below, I certify:

I pledge to have a screening test for colorectal cancer based on the American Cancer Society guidelines or the advice of my doctor during 2017. 

I pledge to promote healthy nutrition and exercise during 2017.

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