Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of death from cancers that affect both men and women, but if everyone 50 and older got regular screenings, six out of ten CRC-related deaths could be prevented.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the goal of which is to increase awareness about the disease and raise funds for research. This month--and throughout the year---you can take action to educate friends and family about CRC and how to get screened; reduce your own odds of getting CRC; raise research dollars; or volunteer. Here's how to get started.
1. Dress in blue
Dress in Blue Day (on Friday, March 1) helps raise awareness about CRC and honors those affected by the disease. Wear blue on Friday and share a CRC fact or two (like those above) with friends, family, colleagues, and passers by.
2. Sign a petition
Medicare covers colonoscopies for qualifying Americans, but if polyps are removed during the procedure, patients can be left with a hefty bill. This limitation prevents many from getting the lifesaving CRC screening that they need. Closing this loophole would prevent 2,000+ cases of CRC and save Medicare $525 million over 10 years.
You can make a difference by signing this petition to inform legislators about the importance of access to screening minus the financial burdens.
3. Watch a video
Take one minute to watch a video about common misconceptions regarding CRC screening. You'll learn who should get screened and when, how screening helps prevent CRC, and more.
4. Spread the word
Educate anyone who will listen. You can print and share educational materials for free. These include CRC fact sheets, brochures, posters, and reminder postcards. Many are available in both English and Spanish.
5. Get off the couch
Exercise plays an important role in preventing CRC. Over 35 studies show that those who exercise reduce their risk of colon cancer by 20 percent or more compared to sedentary people.
If you want to contribute to a cause while you work out, sign up for a Get Your Rear in Gear 5K walk / run or participate in another event. If you are not into organized races, you can take a walk with a friend, ride a bike, rake leaves, or anything that gets your heart pumping
6. Read a story
"Quite frankly, it really bugs me that the media, comedians, and the public at large vilify and sensationalize colonoscopies like they are the most awful experiences ever, which in turn causes physicians to avoid recommending them and misdiagnosing. Do you want to know the most awful experience ever? Having poison pumped into your veins and feeling so nauseous and sick that you can’t move. I would take 10 colonoscopies over chemotherapy any day of the week! You do a prep for a colonoscopy, poop all night, and then get a ride home after some anesthesia. Is that so hard?"
Sign up as a one-time or a regular volunteer. You could gather information for a study, work at a local event, write thank you notes.... The list goes on. Volunteers can make make a big impact in the fight against CRC.
8. Get screened
Don’t let embarrassment or inertia get in the way of getting a potentially lifesaving exam. Ask your doctor about CRC and how to get screened. These sample questions will get you started. And this online tool will help you find a screening center near you.
Completing just one of these steps can make a difference not just for you, but your family, friends, and entire community. But set your sights high; you have 31 days to accomplish all eight.