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)

Having diabetes means: A. Your liver is producing too much fat. B. Your body is unable to digest sugar. C. Too much sugar is staying in your blood.


Answer C - Diabetes is defined as a disease in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood and urine.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin and, therefore, blood glucose (sugar) cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. In Type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or the body is unable to use insulin correctly.

More than 315,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. True or False?


True - The American Cancer Society's estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2017 are:

  • About 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 63,410 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed. (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer.)
  • About 40,610 women will die from breast cancer.
  • Also, at this time, there are more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. This number includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.

Breast cancer can be prevented. True or False?


False - There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. But there are things all women can do that might reduce their risk and help increase the odds that if cancer does occur, it will be found at an early, more treatable stage. Women can lower their risk of breast cancer by changing risk factors that can be changed. Body weight, physical activity and diet have all been linked to breast cancer, so these might be areas where a woman can take action.

At this time, the best advice about diet and activity to possibly reduce the risk of breast cancer is to:

  • Get regular, intentional physical activity.
  • Reduce your lifetime weight gain by limiting your calories and getting regular physical activity.
  • Avoid or limit your alcohol intake.

Having dense breast tissue has no effect on the risk of breast cancer. True or False?


False - Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, fibrous tissue and glandular tissue. A woman is said to have dense breasts (on a mammogram) when she has more glandular and fibrous tissue and less fatty tissue. Women with dense breasts on mammogram have a risk of breast cancer that’s about 1.5 to 2 times that of women with average breast density. Unfortunately, dense breast tissue can also make it harder to see cancers on mammograms.

A number of factors can affect breast density, such as age, menopausal status, the use of certain drugs (including menopausal hormone therapy), pregnancy and genetics.

Performing a breast self-exam every month eliminates the need for an annual mammogram. True or False?


False - Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an important part of breast health, and finding breast cancer as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment. But knowing what to look for — and reporting any changes to a health care provider right away — doesn’t take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer in its early stages, before any symptoms appear.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following screening guidelines for women at average risk for breast cancer:

  • Women 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.
  • Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
  • Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.
Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

These guidelines are for women at average risk for breast cancer. Women with a personal history of breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer (such as BRCA), and women who had radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 are at higher risk for breast cancer, not average-risk.

The American Cancer Society adds that all women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations and potential harms associated with breast cancer screening.

Source: American Cancer Society

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.

* = Required Information