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Healthy Habits: Knowing the signs, risks of colorectal cancer

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 8:29 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Cancer Society says colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. However, Dr. Warqaa Akram, colon and rectal surgeon, assistant professor at Brody School of Medicine, ECU/ Vidant Health, says regular screenings can help detect it early to prevent the spread and treat it.

Dr. Akram says the guidelines for when someone should begin having screenings for colorectal cancer has been updated. It is now recommended people at average risk for colorectal cancer begin screenings at 45 rather than 50. The change is because rates of colorectal cancer among people younger than 50 are on the rise and are expected to almost double by 2030.

Factors that put those at higher risk include having a strong family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps. Other factors include if a person has an inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, or if there is a history of radiation to the abdomen or pelvis to treat a prior cancer.

Test options include stool-based screenings and visual exams, but the gold standard is a colonoscopy.

There are preventative steps you can take to reduce your risks for colorectal cancer. Dr. Akram says it’s important to maintain a healthy diet that is low in red and processed meats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain fiber. Exercise and limiting alcohol and tobacco use can also lower your risks of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

You can schedule a screening with your healthcare provider. For more information, including treatments and resources, click here.

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