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What you need to know about colorectal cancer

In case you didn’t know, it’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought I’d fill you in on the important facts about this group of cancers:

  • It’s the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world. Last year in Canada, it represented 13% of all newly diagnosed cases.
  • This translates to an estimated 13,000 males and 10,300 females that were affected last year in Canada.
  • It’s a killer. It represented 12% of all cancer deaths last year.
  • It’s preventable. And we’re going to show you how!

First, you need to know if you’re at risk. Colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer or colon cancer) can happen to anyone, but there are certain groups that have a higher risk than others. To assess your colorectal cancer risk, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you male?
  • Are you over 70?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you drink more than one alcoholic drink per day (on average)?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Do you eat higher than average amounts of fat and red meat?
  • Do you not exercise on a regular basis?
  • Do you have a family history of colorectal cancers?

If you’re answered yes to one or more of these questions, you need to get yourself screened.

How do you prevent it?

Screening is extremely important. If you catch the cancer early, it is much more curable than leaving it till you actually experience symptoms. Survival rates for early detection are around FIVE times that of later-stage detection. In other words, if it’s caught during a screening before you’ve developed any symptoms; your chance of survival is 5 times higher.

Another step everyone can do to avoid colorectal cancer is to make imperative lifestyle changes. Cut down your consumption of red meat and alcohol, get out and exercise and of course quit smoking! These changes will help you not only prevent bowel cancer, but a whole host of other diseases including coronary disease, lung cancer and other heart problems.

There were 9,200 Canadians who died of this disease last year, so make the changes now!

What are the symptoms?

A lot of the symptoms are similar to minor stomach bugs – fever, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting – but when these are prolonged, you should definitely go and see your doctor. If you have symptoms like worsening constipation or weight loss, those are also symptoms of colorectal cancer. If you have blood in your stool, go and see a doctor. 

What is screening like?

Let’s not beat around the bush– screening for these kinds of cancers are up close and personal. The initial test is just a stool sample test, known as a FOBT, or a fecal occult blood test. The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health advises you have one of these every year or two after the age of 50. Colonoscopies are done for higher risk patients and can be a bit uncomfortable, but nowhere near as uncomfortable as developing this disease.

To learn more about colorectal cancer, or to donate to the “save butts” campaign please click here.


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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