Reducing Your Colorectal Cancer Risk
Dr. Joseph Hoyle
Colorectal cancer has killed a friend of mine. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in South Carolina, and the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer – each of us has a 1 in 20 lifetime chance of diagnosis. On average each year, 2,100 people are diagnosed with this cancer after it has spread beyond the large intestine, and 800 die.
Thankfully, there are ways you can reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer and age-adjusted rates of death have already fallen more than 20 percent in the last 20 years. The top five ways:
– Avoid tobacco
– Choose a diet low in red and processed meats
– Maintain a healthy weight
– Move regularly, avoiding long hours of sitting
– Find and have removed any polyps, or pre-cancer growths
Polyps are found by getting appropriate screenings, such as new types of stool cards and colonoscopy, based on your age and other risk factors. All types of screening – even free stool cards available at some clinics – can help reduce the chance of death because cancer found early is more treatable.
In Florence, access to all types of screening is available. However, as a community, we are not quite meeting the national goal for screening of 70 percent of adults aged 50-74. Many people younger than 50 and older than 74 should also be screened based on their risk factors and life expectancy.
According to research published in May 2019, patients at community health centers, like HopeHealth, list fear as the number one barrier to screening. Cost and lack of insurance are also barriers, but are not as common as fear. So even if all screening options were free, many people would still not get screened.
Fear can be rooted in both real and imagined dangers, including:
– General, unexplained feelings of being scared
– Specific concerns, such as risk of anesthesia
– Doubt that something could be done if cancer were found
– Not wanting to hear that anything could be wrong
As a medical profession, we can work together to reduce barriers, including fear – and the Florence County Medical Society is meeting March 31st to address colorectal cancer. But we need your help! Keep pursuing healthy eating and active living, talk with your doctor about these concerns, and encourage them to come to the educational forum on March 31st. Visit florencemedical.org for more information on the meeting.
For more information about colorectal cancer screening and your risk factors, talk with your primary care provider and visit hope-health.org/colorectal-health.
Dr. Joseph Hoyle is a board-certified family physician at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence. He volunteers with Helping Florence Flourish and is a member of the South Carolina Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians.