If you’ve recently been diagnosed with colon cancer, the first thing you should know is that you’re not alone. It’s one of the most common types of cancer. And if it’s caught early, it’s also one of the most treatable.
One of the first steps to fighting colon cancer is to arm yourself with knowledge and learn as much as you can about the disease and how it’s treated.
Colorectal cancer, also called bowel or colon cancer, occurs in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus. Most colon cancers develop first as colorectal polyps, which are abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that may later become cancerous. When discovered early, colon cancer is highly treatable. Even at more advanced stages, colon cancer can be cured with appropriate surgery and treatment. In the most difficult cases — when the cancer has metastasized to the liver, lungs or other sites — treatment can prolong and add to one’s quality of life. People are living longer than ever with colon cancer as treatment options are numerous today and there have been great improvements in surgical techniques.
Colon cancer affects men and women equally. It is found among all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people 50 years or older. While nearly 90% of people are older than 50 at the time of diagnosis, there is a clear trend in the disease incidence increasing in those under 50. It is the third most common cancer worldwide, behind only lung and prostate cancers in men and lung and breast cancers in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death when sexes are combined.
Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people are diagnosed with colon cancer annually. While colon cancer is the 3rd most common cancer, it remains the most preventable major cancer through screening. Despite the cost effectiveness of screening and the availability of proven screening tools, the incidence rate the disease is expected to increase by 33.5% by 2020. The global economic burden of colon cancer is staggering, reported to be in excess of $33,000,000,000 annually.
In many countries around the world, there are no CRC screening programs, no access to treatments and no patient voice to effectuate change. Similarly, cancer patients have little to no support. Even in developed and developing countries, CRC remains a huge problem. In the US, one-third of the number of people who should be screened are not getting tested and in Europe the problem is far worse. There are 136 million Europeans eligible for CRC screening yet only 12 million have participated. While Europe accounts for only 11% of the world population, it accounts for about one-third of all CRC deaths worldwide.
CRC is increasing in economically transitioning countries, including Eastern Europe, most of Asia, and in select countries in South America. CRC incidence rates worldwide have increased in 27 of 51 international cancer registries studied by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Very few other countries have formal screening programs, coverage for testing or awareness programs to educate the public about the disease and how it can be prevented or access to available treatments.
Awareness of the disease, its reach, its ability to be prevented and its treatability if diagnosed early are the keys to changing the global problem of colon cancer. Colon cancer screening saves lives. Screening detects precancerous polyps and allows them to be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colon cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. Take control of your life and your health – if you’re turning 50 or are experiencing abnormal symptoms, GET SCREENED. And urge those you love to do the same.
The Global Colon Cancer Association is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization with Tax ID no: 46-0657002.
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