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Dear Student Doctors,

MARCH 2012 IS:

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

  • Colorectal cancer, cancer of either the colon or the rectum, is the second leading cause of cancer death in America. Each year, over 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 die from it.
  • Colorectal cancer is most common in older Americans, with greater than 90% of cases occurring in individuals 50 years of age or older.
  • In America, standard screening techniques exist and are widely available, yet many Americans either do not seek out or are unaware of these screening measures. The CDC estimates that if current screening recommendations were followed, as many as 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be avoided.


  1. At each visit, an at-risk patients (including any patient >50 years old) if they are experiencing any symptoms of colorectal cancer, including:
    • Bright red blood in stools or dark tarry stools
    • Abdominal pains or aches that do not go away and may wake patient during the night
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Persistent, gradually worsening constipation
    • Nausea, vomiting, or persistent loss of appetite
  2. Know the national screening guidelines, and screen all recommended patients. All patients older than 50 years should receive a fecal occult blood test every 2 years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, and a colonoscopy every 10 years. Patients with family history of CRC or cancer syndromes and patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis) should receive screening earlier.
  3. Educate ALL patients about modifiable risk factors. This includes decreasing alcohol intake, decreasing consumption of red meats and foods high in fat, smoking cessation, and regular aerobic exercise.