March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March 08, 2011

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Penn State Hershey Colon and Rectal Surgery and Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute offer the reminder that colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable -- and often curable -- when detected early.

Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon and rectum, is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women. This year, approximately 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, and 56,000 people will die from the disease. Although colorectal cancer may occur at any age, more than 90 percent of people with this disease are diagnosed after age 40. And the risk increases with age.

Research suggests that a high-fiber, low-fat diet plays a role in prevention. A good rule of thumb is that the average adult should consume at least 25-35 grams of fiber daily. This amount can be obtained by eating five half-cup servings of fruits and vegetables every day. For adults, adding a soluble fiber supplement is an easy and practical way to obtain the recommended daily intake of fiber.

Beginning at age 50, women and men who are at average risk should be screened, with the type of screening test determined in conjunction with your health care provider. For individuals at higher risk, screenings should begin earlier than age 50. Current screening methods include:

  • -- blood testing
  • -- flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • -- barium X-ray
  • -- colonoscopy
  • -- digital rectal exam

Talk to your health care provider for more information. To find out if you are at risk and to learn how to lower your risk, visit

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Last Updated March 10, 2011