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COLUMN: Recognizing Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and though colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the U.S., it's not discussed openly. More than 140,000 men and women in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in ...

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and though colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the U.S., it's not discussed openly. More than 140,000 men and women in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2018 and 50,630 will die of the disease. In North Dakota alone 350 will be diagnosed and 110 will die of colorectal cancer in 2018.

Despite common misconceptions, colorectal cancer doesn't affect only men and it's not just an "old person's disease." In fact, colorectal cancer rates for men and women are similar, and although your risk increases with age, rates in young people are on the rise. You're also at greater risk if you're African-American, smoke, are overweight or obese, are not physically active, drink alcohol in excess, eat a lot of red and processed meats, or have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease.

If you experience any abdominal problems such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, inform your health care professional.

A colonoscopy can find polyps (growths) that can be removed before they become cancerous or it can detect cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely. You should get a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50, unless your results or risk factors indicate you need to be screened earlier or more often.

Reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by exercising, limiting your alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco, eating less red meat and avoiding processed meat, and maintaining a healthy weight. To learn more, visit www.preventcancer.org .

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