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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month - Ways to outsmart the disease are within everyone’s reach!

06 March 2013

Montreal, QC -

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is taking advantage of this month, which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, to tell Quebecers that it is time to take action to prevent the disease.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in Quebec and the third most common cancer among men and women combined. Last year, about 6,200 Quebecers were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 2,450 died from this disease.

“Although nearly 95% of people with colorectal cancer are above the age of 50, it is possible to reduce the risk of this disease by preventive action and early screening at any age. It is wrong to think that we can do nothing about colorectal cancer,” says Jacinthe Hovington, Director, Cancer Prevention and Health Promotion, CCS — Quebec Division.

Preventing colorectal cancer

There is no single cause of colorectal cancer, but certain factors can increase the risk of its occurrence. The following is a list of risk factors that we must be aware of even if we can do nothing about them:

  • age;
  • family history of colorectal cancer – especially if the individual (parent, brother, sister, or child)was diagnosed before age 45;
  • polyps (small benign tumours on the internal wall of the colon or rectum);
  • familial polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer;
  • an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).

On the other hand, several studies show that lifestyle habits are directly linked to colorectal cancer. Our everyday choices can help reduce the risk of getting this disease. The following are known risk factors related to our lifestyle habits that we can change as needed:

  • physical inactivity;
  • excess weight and obesity;
  • a diet high in red meat (beef, pork, lamb, and goat meat);
  • frequent consumption of sausages and cold cuts (ham, salami, sausages, hot dogs);
  • alcohol consumption that exceeds the limit of one drink per day for women and two for men;
  • a diet that is low in fibre content;
  • smoking.

“Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is a key aspect of colorectal cancer prevention. A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fibre combined with a reasonable level of alcohol consumption helps reduce the risk of developing this disease. Avoiding smoking, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy body weight also play an important role in the prevention of this cancer,” says the Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Réjean Hébert.

Timely screening of the disease

Colorectal cancer develops from polyps present in the rectum or the colon (part of the intestine). The various symptoms of the disease such as persistent changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or cramps), unexplained weight loss, or blood in the stools often appear in advanced stages. This complicates treatment and reduces the life expectancy of the person diagnosed.

Nevertheless, colorectal cancer can be prevented, treated, and cured in more than 90% of cases when diagnosed early on. As far as the CCS is concerned, it would be possible to reduce colorectal cancer deaths if screening was made available to the entire Quebec population.

So, the CCS recommends that men and women who are above 50 years of age undergo a fecal occult blood (FOBT) test every two years. A positive result (confirming the presence of blood in the stools) can be followed up with further testing (such as colonoscopy) to establish the presence of cancer.

“Don’t wait for cancer to take you by surprise! Prevent it by adopting a healthy lifestyle and undergoing tests that are suitable for your personal needs,” says Ms. Hovington.

To learn more about colorectal cancer screening and ways to reduce the risk of getting the disease, visit cancer.ca or sante.gouv.qc.ca/problemes-de-sante/cancer-colorectal.

For 75 years, the Canadian Cancer Society has been with Canadians in the fight for life. All these years, we have been relentless in our commitment to prevent cancer, fund research, and support Canadians touched by cancer. From this foundation, we will work with Canadians to change cancer forever so fewer Canadians are diagnosed with the disease and more survive. To know more about cancer, visit our website at cancer.ca or call our Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.