March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, and is a subject close to me, as I have lost two aunts to this disease. It is such a horrible illness to go through, and yet, in so many cases, preventable. With a number of ways to screen for colorectal cancer, we should be seeing a decrease in the number of cases or deaths.

I will be quite honest, as a nurse and a patient, I can say it is no lie when you hear someone say that the colonoscopy 'prep' is the worst part. But, it is temporary. There are preparations now that aren't nearly so bad as early preps. Talk with your doctor about which one is best for you. But by all means, please talk to your doctor about getting a colon screening if you are 50 or over, or earlier if you have a close relative with colorectal polyps or cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease or other genetic syndromes. Truly, most people have no recollection of the colonoscopy procedure due to the medications administered.

Colorectal cancer is non-discriminatory; it affects men and women, especially age 50 and over. In fact, it is the cancer with the second highest mortality rate in the United States! But it is sneaky… many colorectal cancers can start from a polyp that develops into cancer over time. There may be no symptoms in the early stages, be it from an early colorectal cancer or from the precancerous polyps. But with the screenings, these polyps can be removed before they cause problems. Though these symptoms may be caused by other illnesses, some things to watch for are unexplained weight loss, blood in/on stool with bowel movement, persistent abdominal aches, pains or cramps.

The type of testing or screening and frequency of testing varies, and insurance coverage varies as well. There may be assistance available to those who are not able to afford the screening.

What I can tell you with all certainty is that I would much rather go through a little discomfort with the preparation and get past the feeling of embarrassment of the procedure than the devastation of people's lives and that of their families from this terrible disease, especially since, in most cases, colorectal cancer is so preventable. So please, I can't ask you enough to talk with your doctor about screening options. For more information on colorectal screening, visit