03/02/2020 What You Need to Know about Colorectal Cancer

Allison Walsh

Early Detection and Awareness are Keys to Combating Colon Cancer

This year’s theme for colon cancer awareness month, promoted by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, is “Tomorrow can’t wait.”1  Supplementally Speaking is happy to participate in their goal of spreading awareness of the disease and reminding people of the common misconceptions and myths around this disease. This campaign reminds people death rates from the disease can be dramatically reduced if it’s found early on1, so no one should wait to be tested.

The stats

According to the American Cancer Society, over 53,000 people could die from colorectal cancer in 2020: 24,000 women and 29,000 men. They predict that there will be 104,610 new cases of colon cancer, and 43,340 new cases of rectal cancer. Women are slightly less likely than men to contract the disease.  Overall, deaths from colorectal cancer are dropping, likely because of the early screening.  However, for the under 55 age group, the rate of death has increased 2% between 2007 and 2016.2

The under 50s

While the majority of colorectal cancer patients are over the age of 50, The American Cancer Society recently updated its screening guidelines to include people of average risk to begin screening at age 45 instead of at 50.3  Its rationale for lowering the recommended screening age is that as mentioned, while colorectal cancer incidences and mortality are declining for the over 55 age group, they are increasing for the under 55 age group.3 Risk factors associated with colorectal cancer include:

  • cigarette smoking
  • excess body weight
  • high consumption of alcohol
  • high consumption of processed meat
  • low consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • low consumption of fiber
  • physical inactivity2

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer because in 15-50% of young-onset cases of the disease, doctors have missed the diagnosis.4 If something seems off and you suspect you have the disease, but your doctor doesn’t agree, it’s important to seek a second opinion and advocate for yourself.

Support

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance wants you to know that if you’re diagnosed with the disease, you’re not alone. They have resources for patients and family members available, such as moral support, a helpline, 24 hour chat rooms and financial aid.5 Other resources beyond Colorectal Cancer Alliance exist as well, such as CancerCare® , a non-profit organization that provides free professional support.6 Use these and other resources to become as educated as you can be about the disease, treatment options and self-care.  Share with your friends and families what you need to feel supported.

Hope

Colon cancer survival rates have steadily been rising over the past thirty years thanks to better early detection and treatment options. There are several treatment options depending on the stage of cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Studies are ongoing to find new and improved treatment methods such as identifying biomarkers, personalized medicine and immunotherapy.

Prevention

Your best defense against colorectal cancer is early detection, but there are lifestyle choices you can make to give yourself the best chance of staying healthy. They include:

  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Eating 18 oz  (cooked) or less of red meat per week
  • Avoid processed meats like hot dogs
  • Aim for 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise per day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Screen even earlier if you have a family history
  • Eliminate or reduce alcohol
  • Quit smoking6

 

Cancer and insurance

Private insurers and Medicare are required to cover the cost of colon cancer screening, according to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some insurances will only cover screenings for people over the age of 50, because of differing recommended guidelines.  Call your insurance before your screening to fully understand what the costs will be.7

Buying supplemental insurance to off-set the cost of having cancer could give you greater peace of mind if you are concerned you may contract colon cancer.  Read more about this type of supplemental insurance in Cancer Insurance: What you Need to Know.

Help spread awareness of this disease by sharing this blog post and using #TomorrowCantWait and #CRCAwarenessMonth.

Cancer policies underwritten by Combined Insurance Company of America (Chicago, IL) in all states, except New York. In New York, Critical Illness policies underwritten by Combined Life Insurance Company of New York (Latham, NY). Combined Insurance Company of America is not licensed and does not solicit business in New York. Cancer policies not available in all states. Exclusions and limitations apply. See policy for complete details.

References

1-March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ccalliance.org/about/awareness-month
2-Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html3-Colorectal
4-We are young and brave. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ccalliance.org/about/never-too-young/know-the-facts 
5-Free professional support for anyone affected by cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancercare.org/mission
6-Can Colorectal Cancer Be Prevented? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html 
7-Insurance Coverage for Colorectal Cancer Screening. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/screening-coverage-laws.html

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