Lose The Stigma, Not Your Life: If you're at risk, don't be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about being screened for colon or rectal cancer! Click here for links to colorectal cancer-related websites

Lose the stigma, not your life!

Unless you've been in Timbucktoo for the last few weeks you will have heard that Farrah Fawcett recently died as a result of anal cancer. Before she died she made a documentary about her illness to create awareness about the disease and to help remove the stigma associated with it.

Although colorectal cancer is not the same as anal cancer, like most people, you're probably too embarrassed to talk about it. However, you need to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms associated with the disease, and you need to know that early detection through regular screening is the best prevention. By creating awareness we are hoping you will lose the stigma, not your life.

The third most common cancer

According to Stats Canada, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death by cancer in Canada (after lung cancer) with around 175 people dying from the disease every week. It is the third most common cancer and affects both men and women equally. Colorectal cancer is most prevalent in people over the age of 50 (94%).

But colorectal cancer is 90% curable if diagnosed early.

We want to help reduce these statistics. So we urge you to learn more about colorectal cancer and to look after your behind.

Butt, what is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the collective term for colon and rectal cancers which are very similar diseases, sharing the same causes and symptoms. The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada (CCAC) writes:

“The cells lining the colon or rectum can sometimes become abnormal and divide rapidly. These cells can form benign (non-cancerous) tumours or growths called polyps. Although not all polyps will develop into colorectal cancer, colorectal cancer almost always develops from a polyp. Over a period of many years, a polyp‚Äôs cells may undergo a series of DNA changes that cause them to become malignant (cancerous).”

If untreated cancerous cells can migrate to the lining of the colon or rectum, where they can then take hold of blood and lymph vessels, and may lead to tumours on the lymph nodes and other organs, such as the lungs or liver. This process is know as metastasis and the resulting tumours are called metastases. Learn about the different stages of colorectal cancer.

Asses your risks

One of the main risk factors associated with colorectal cancer is age. The older you get the more at risk you are. Colorectal cancer is most prevalent in people over the age of 50 (94%). A previous history of inflammatory bowel disease and a family history of colorectal cancer also increase your risk. You may also be more at risk if:

  • you smoke
  • your diet lacks fruits and vegetables and is high in red meat
  • you are obese and physically inactive
  • you consume alcohol, especially beer

Recognize the symptoms

Initial development of colorectal cancer often has no symptoms which is why screening is so important. However, without early detection through screening and removal of polyps and any cancerous cells that may be present, a colorectal cancer tumour will develop until it's so large that it can lead to partial or full blockage of the colon or rectum.

The symptoms of colorectal cancer may vary depending on the size and location of the tumour. They can include some or all of the following:

  • constipation/diarrhea
  • narrow stools
  • abdominal cramps
  • bloody stools
  • unexplained weightloss/loss of appetite
  • sense of fullness
  • nausea & vomitting
  • gas & bloating
  • lethargy (fatigue)

Colorectal cancer can be present for many years before these symptoms develop. Studies have shown that, on average, symptoms persist for 14 weeks before a diagnosis is made, but that there is no relationship between the duration of the symptoms and the stage of the tumour.

So, if you are at risk, it is extremely important to receive regular screenings rather than wait for symptoms to warn that you may have a tumour.

We are not an authority on colorectal cancer so please become more informed by visiting one of the websites on our links page.

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