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 10th year, employees who commit to colorectal cancer prevention have an opportunity to win home exercise equipment valued at $1,000.

To be eligible for the drawing, complete the quiz, e-sign the form below and submit by March 31, 2018. Only one entry per employee will be eligible. Winners will be announced in BJC TODAY and on BJCnet.

Eligible employees must:

  • Pledge to schedule or encourage a family member or friend to schedule a screening test in 2018, based on the American Cancer Society guidelines or the advice of their physician
  • Promote healthy nutrition and exercise in 2018
  • Complete an educational quiz about colorectal cancer
  • Turn in the completed pledge form by March 31, 2018
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: You can print out the quiz here, 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)

Colon cancer can be avoided by changing risk factors you have control over.

 

True - Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. with more than 140,000 people diagnosed each year. The good news is that individuals can take steps to prevent colon cancer by changing certain risk factors. Seventy-five percent of cases could be avoided by changing risk factors such as:

  • Not getting screened: Having regular screening for colon cancer is the single best way to protect yourself. You can catch cancer earlier when it’s most treatable or prevent it from happening in the first place. See colorectal cancer screening options below.
  • Being overweight: Always try to keep weight within a healthy range. Being overweight can increase the risk for many cancers, including colorectal cancer.
  • Diet high in red and processed meat: Limit red meat, such as steak, hamburger and pork, and processed meat, such as bacon, sausage and bologna, to fewer than three servings a week.
  • Low physical activity: Do something active you enjoy for at least 30 minutes a day to lower your risk of colon cancer. Activity also helps keep your weight down.
  • Too much alcohol: If you drink, keep it to one drink or less a day. Even moderate amounts increase the risk of colon cancer.
  • Smoking: On top of raising the risk of heart disease, stroke and emphysema, smoking is a major cause of at least 14 different cancers, including colon cancer. If you smoke, quit.
  • Being low in certain nutrients:
    • Low calcium and vitamin D: There is good evidence that adequate calcium and D protect against colon cancer. Shoot for about 1,200 mg a day of calcium and 1,000 IU a day of vitamin D.
    • Lack of folate: A daily multivitamin with folate is good for nutrition and can also protect against colon cancer. One a day is all you need.
  • Not being on an aspirin regimen: One low-dose aspirin a day can lower the risk of a heart attack, and long-term use can lower the risk of colon cancer. But aspirin has risks, so check with your doctor first.
Like all healthful behaviors, the earlier in life you start them and stick with them, the better for your long-term health.

Though colon cancer is very preventable, there are still important risk factors that people can’t control.

 

True - Though colon cancer is very preventable, there are a number of important risk factors that people can’t control. Knowing which ones apply to you can help you understand your risk and take steps to lower it. If you feel you’re at high risk, talk to a doctor or health professional. The following factors can increase colon cancer risk:

Age: The risk for colon cancer goes up as we age, especially after 60.

Being tall: Colon cancer risk is higher in women 5 feet, 8 inches or taller, and in men 5 feet, 11 inches and taller.

Inflammatory bowel disease: People with inflammatory bowel disease have five times the risk of developing colon cancer, so cancer screenings are especially important.

Family history: Up to 5-6 percent of colorectal cancers are caused by inherited colon cancer syndromes. It’s important to know your family medical history, because a strong family history of colon cancer or cancer-related conditions can change recommendations for colon screening and preventive measures that may be taken.

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

 

True - There are several different colorectal cancer screening tests that are used for detecting colon cancer. They should be done at the recommended intervals.

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.

Tests that primarily find cancer include:

  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): You take multiple samples of a bowel movement at home and send the samples to a lab, where they are tested for hidden blood, which could indicate cancer. A test can be positive if you eat red meat. This should be done every year, and if a test is positive, you need a colonoscopy.
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT or iFOBT): This also involves multiple samples of stool to test for blood in the stool, but this one uses antibodies to detect human hemoglobin specifically. This test is typically covered every three years.
  • DNA stool test: This new test, not yet available for routine screening, uses multiple samples of feces to check DNA in stool cells for genetic changes that may be a sign of colorectal cancer. It would also require a colonoscopy for a positive result.

Tests that find polyps and cancer:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This exam is similar to a colonoscopy in that it uses a small flexible tube to examine only the lower part of the colon without sedation and should be done every five years. If it is positive for colon polyps or cancer, you need a colonoscopy.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: This is a type of CT scan that creates a 3D image of the inside of the colon. During the test, a small tube is inserted into the rectum to gently inflate the colon with air and scan it without sedation. This should be done every five years. Because it doesn’t involve having instruments in the colon, polyps or suspicious areas cannot be removed. You still need a colonoscopy.
  • Barium enema: This is an X-ray of the colon taken after barium liquid is put into the rectum and colon to check for polyps and abnormal anatomy of the colon and rectum. It can also detect issues such as diverticulitis, diverticulosis, abnormal colon movement, or narrowing or dilation of the colon. If any abnormalities are found, you still need a colonoscopy. In large part, barium enemas have been replaced by virtual colonoscopy.
  • Colonoscopy: A small flexible tube with a camera at the end is used to examine the full length of the inside of the colon while you’re asleep. If the exam finds polyps or other precancerous lesions, they can be removed during the test, preventing cancer from forming. Because it can take a long time for a polyp to grow into cancer, a screening colonoscopy only needs to be done every 10 years in people over 50 with normal risk. People with a strong family history of colorectal cancer or a genetic predisposition should be screened more often than every 10 years, and screening may start earlier.
Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.

A person’s genetic background is an important factor in colon cancer risk.

 

True - The Inherited Colorectal Cancer and Familial Polyposis Registry at Washington University School of Medicine and the Siteman Cancer Center offers clinical resources to families with inherited colorectal cancer syndromes with a goal of reducing the incidence of colorectal cancer.

Up to 5-6 percent of all colon cancers in the United States are caused by inherited colon cancer syndromes. Most patients in the registry have familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), an inherited condition in which polyps inevitably progress to cancer if not removed. Others have hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), which results in cancers of the colon (primarily), uterus, ovaries, urinary tract and stomach. Other inherited conditions include MYH-associated polyposis (MAP) and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS).

By enrolling in the registry, patients gain access to educational events, relevant literature and timely reminders for follow-up appointments to ensure they are receiving the best preventive care possible. Membership in the registry is free, and patients with inherited colorectal cancer syndromes are highly encouraged to become involved.

The registry offers:

  • Educational events and literature on inherited colorectal cancer syndromes
  • A multidisciplinary care team, including colorectal surgeons, gastroenterologists, genetic counselors and a registry coordinator
  • Opportunities to become involved in research related to inherited colorectal cancer syndromes
  • The latest updates on genetic testing, screening guidelines, research findings, current studies and other pertinent news

For more information, visit the Inherited Colorectal Cancer and Familial Polyposis Registry website.

Most people should start colorectal screening at age 50.

 

True - People who have no identified risk factors (other than age) should begin regular screening at age 50. Those who have a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors for colorectal polyps or cancer should talk with a health care provider about starting screening when they’re younger and/or getting screened more often.


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, 2018. Winners will be announced in BJC TODAY and on BJCnet.

By entering my name below, I pledge:

  • To have a screening test for colorectal cancer based on the American Cancer Society guidelines or the advice of my doctor during 2018 
  • To promote healthy nutrition and exercise during 2018

* = Required Information