March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month - Wear Your Blue Ribbon

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by Brenda F. Johnson Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience.

March is colon cancer awareness month and that means increased education on colon cancer and events to raise awareness. But is it really that crucial? Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in the United States. This year alone the American Cancer Society expects 151,030 new cases and 52,580 deaths from colorectal cancer. Early detection is very important and colonoscopies are a large part of that.

Colon Cancer Screening: How Important is It?

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month - Wear Your Blue Ribbon

Increased Rates in Younger People

Colon cancer rates have decreased over the past years in the older demographic because of increased screenings. However, there has been an upward trend in younger people being diagnosed with colon cancer. I work in a GI lab, and I have seen an increase of people in their 30s and 40s being diagnosed with colon cancer in the past 5 years. It is alarming to see a large cancer in someone who is so young. It is a reminder of how fragile our bodies can be and how we must pay attention to them.

Research and Risk Factors

Research is trying to identify specific risk factors that can be used to help in colon cancer prevention.  But the key is in the individual’s hands, and that is why raising awareness is so important. There are genetic risk factors as well, but there is a lot more research to be done before we can know what the lock and key is that changes our DNA to mutate into cancer. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, there are things that we can do to help prevent colon cancer, such as exercise and eat a high fiber diet. A few things have been identified that can increase a person’s risk for colon cancer such as eating a lot of red meat, processed meat, and being overweight. 

Hungary has the highest rate of colon cancer as of 2018 according to the World Cancer Research Fund, with men having a much higher rate over women.  Hungary’s culture of living and medical infrastructure does not educate its citizens on healthy living. They smoke and drink a lot, eat fatty meats, and they have a lot of industrial pollution. Their lack of preventative healthcare has them topping the list in cancer diagnoses. So we know that what we do with our bodies and what we put into them can make a considerable difference in the length and quality of our lives.

Prevention

Colonoscopies

Colon cancer is, for the most part, preventable. The American Cancer Society has decreased the age of screening colonoscopies from 50 to 45. There are the at-home tests that are often done annually such as the fecal occult blood test or the DNA test that is every 3 years. But if you are someone with any risk factors, the age and frequency of screenings vary. Risk factors include a family history of colon cancer, Crohn's or Ulcerative colitis, and radiation to the abdomen. 

Unfortunately, there remains a stigma in relation to colonoscopies, and then there is the prep that has to be done to clean out the colon. The prep takes commitment and it has to be done correctly or the doctor won’t be able to see everything. When the doctor can’t get good visualization, then the patient has to come back sooner, such as the next year rather than five to ten years. The other choice is to go home and do more prep and return the next day to try again. It is much better to follow directions the first time to decrease cost and prevent being sedated more than necessary. 

There is nothing better than a colonoscopy in detecting colon cancer. It is a direct visualization of the colon mucosa. We are becoming a more self-aware society in relation to our health because of the internet and the information that is available.  The huge amount of knowledge out there for patients to read, listen to, or watch can help them make their decision to have a screening and pay attention to their bodies to know the signs and symptoms of colon cancer. Unfortunately,  symptoms do not show up until colon cancer has progressed substantially. 

Education and Awareness

As nurses, we have the opportunity to educate and encourage our patients to maintain good colon health. We can also get involved this month of March to help raise awareness. First, we can take care of ourselves and set an example for our patients. We can also get involved in a fundraising event, or even get involved in legislation. Something as simple as wearing a blue ribbon can begin a conversation. 

The annual Rump Run in our community is a run/walk event that is a lot of fun and educational. This year it's on March 26th, the tenth anniversary of the event. There are snacks, music, an inflated colon that demonstrates the different types of polyps, and even a bouncy house for children. It is growing every year, and this year Medtronic will be there to educate and also to demonstrate their cutting edge artificial intelligence program called the GI Genius. The link below explains more on that. 

What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

What You Can Do

What are ways that you have been involved in raising colon cancer awareness?

What does your community do to raise awareness?


Resources

American Cancer Society: Colorectal Cancer Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

Colorectal Cancer Statistics

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7 Comment(s)

Journey_On, BSN, RN

Specializes in Occupational Health and Mother Baby. Has 13 years experience. 294 Posts

Brenda, thank you very much for this. I didn’t even know it was Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

I am having a colonoscopy next week due to a symptom I had/have. My surgeon wants me to be cleared from a GI standpoint prior to a laparoscopic procedure he will be doing. He has a few friends who were diagnosed with colon CA even though they were young. So this is a very timely post - thank you again! 🙏

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 96 Articles; 316 Posts

On 3/9/2022 at 4:50 PM, Journey_On said:

Brenda, thank you very much for this. I didn’t even know it was Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

I am having a colonoscopy next week due to a symptom I had/have. My surgeon wants me to be cleared from a GI standpoint prior to a laparoscopic procedure he will be doing. He has a few friends who were diagnosed with colon CA even though they were young. So this is a very timely post - thank you again! 🙏

How was your colonoscopy? I hope everything went well

Julita, BSN, RN

Specializes in OR,PAR,PainMgmt,GenSurg,Cosmetic,Imaging,Endoscopy. Has 22 years experience. 3 Articles; 8 Posts

Hi Brenda

Thank you for sharing such great insights about Colon Cancer awareness, it is something I am very passionate about. I totally agree with you we have to take good care of ourselves and eat healthy. I am pleased to know about the community events happening in your area to raise awareness, what a great idea! 👍You have given me an idea for my community too. 

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 96 Articles; 316 Posts

11 hours ago, Julita said:

Hi Brenda

Thank you for sharing such great insights about Colon Cancer awareness, it is something I am very passionate about. I totally agree with you we have to take good care of ourselves and eat healthy. I am pleased to know about the community events happening in your area to raise awareness, what a great idea! 👍You have given me an idea for my community too. 

Thank you for sharing! Good luck with your event. Let us know how it went

Journey_On, BSN, RN

Specializes in Occupational Health and Mother Baby. Has 13 years experience. 294 Posts

On 3/14/2022 at 7:18 PM, Brenda F. Johnson said:

How was your colonoscopy? I hope everything went well

It went very well - no polyps or other abnormalities were found (other than the hemorrhoids, which we were already aware of). Thank you so much for asking, Brenda! 🙂

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 96 Articles; 316 Posts

On 3/18/2022 at 4:42 AM, Journey_On said:

It went very well - no polyps or other abnormalities were found (other than the hemorrhoids, which we were already aware of). Thank you so much for asking, Brenda! 🙂

I'm so glad everything turned out OK!

Journey_On, BSN, RN

Specializes in Occupational Health and Mother Baby. Has 13 years experience. 294 Posts

9 minutes ago, Brenda F. Johnson said:

I'm so glad everything turned out OK!

Thank you so much, Brenda! 😍