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EDITORIAL: Early detection the key to treating colorectal cancer

Setting up a screening could save a life

According to the Colorectal Cancer Canada website, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the country – and it’s not just a men’s issue.

Colorectal cancer is the second most fatal form of cancer in men, and the third most fatal form of cancer for women.

The good news is, if caught in its early stages, it is highly treatable and potentially curable.

The bad news is, because of its minuscule size, colorectal cancer is not easily detected in its early stages.

That’s why regular screening check-ups are recommended, particularly once you hit 50 years old. Screening tests are an effective way to find colorectal cancer before any symptoms develop.

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Symptoms, once they start appearing, can include diarrhea, constipation, the feeling that the rectum is not completely empty after a bowel movement, abnormal stool colour (particularly bright red, or very dark red), bleeding from the rectum, bowel obstruction, among others.

Risk factors include a family history of colorectal cancer, and increase if the cancer was diagnosed in a family member under the age of 50.

There are also various genetic conditions that increase the risk. The Canadian Cancer Society (cancer.ca) has more information on the many risk factors, as well as various resources and support.

Of course, prevention is the preferred route, and according to the World Cancer Research Fund, there is considerable evidence that lifestyle choices play a major role in prevention. Being physically active, incorporating healthy eating and drinking habits, not smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight are all things that can decrease the risk of developing cancer.

In Canada, the five-year net survival rate for colorectal cancer is 65 per cent, which means 65 per cent of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer will survive for at least another five years, after diagnosis.

Approximately 26,900 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020. That’s 26,900 too many.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Canada. Do yourself a favour and get screened.

It could be life-saving.

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