Dr. Cary Schnitzer is medical director for OptumCare Arizona.

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer?  And did you know it’s the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the country? Sadly, more than 135,000 people will be diagnosed, and approximately 50,000 of them will die from this disease in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society.

According to United Health Foundations 2017 America’s Health Rankings, Arizona ranks 40th in the country for screenings with nearly 64% of adults age 50-75 reported receiving one or more of the recommended colorectal cancer screening tests within the recommended time frame.

Colorectal cancer is a deadly but preventable disease. It helps to understand the facts about it because information is power. Knowledge and awareness can be the difference that helps save lives, maybe even yours. 

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so it is the right time to talk about it.

Colorectal cancer is an equal-opportunity disease. It doesn’t discriminate – it affects both men and women equally and strikes all racial and ethnic groups. However, age is a factor. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 90 percent of people with colon cancer are diagnosed after age 50, and the average age at diagnosis is 72.

Detecting colorectal cancer early is important. According to the American Cancer Society, when colorectal cancer is found at Stage 1, before it has spread, the five-year relative survival rate is about 90 percent. When the cancer progresses and spreads outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower.

It’s recommended that anyone 50 and over get a colorectal screening, which is a very important preventive step. It involves a simple lab test that helps detect blood in the stool and cancer at earlier stages. There is also the colonoscopy exam. The procedure is safe, relatively painless and done under sedation. A tiny camera looks inside the large intestine to discover any growths or abnormalities such as polyps and ulcers.

There is no way to prevent colorectal cancer, yet there are things you can do to lower your risk, especially when it comes to diet and exercise. Being overweight and physically inactive, consuming high amounts of alcohol, and red meat and processed meat have been shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.   

When it comes to colon cancer prevention, it’s true: information is power. Through screenings, understanding risk factors and engaging in a healthy lifestyle and healthier choices, lives can be saved – perhaps even your own.


Dr. Cary Schnitzer is medical director with OptumCare Arizona.