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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


In addition to Women’s History Month, the month of March is also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The awareness brought to this type of cancer is important as it is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths and is expected to claim 52,580 lives this year in America. Early detection and treatment are especially critical for the Black community as African-Americans have a higher risk of developing colon cancer, as their numbers rank high among those who have type 2 diabetes or kidney transplants.

OW held a question and answer session with Dr. Karl Kwok, an interventional gastroenterologist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

“When colon cancer is found at an early stage, the survival rate can be as high as 90 percent,” Kwok said. “In fact, regular screenings can help detect advanced polyps that are precancerous, and enable us to remove them using techniques that do not require surgery.”

Question: Can colorectal cancer be prevented?

Answer: To a large extent, yes. Most cases of colon cancer are due to the sporadic development of precancerous polyps that don’t cause symptoms for a long period of time. This is why screening is critical — the earlier we detect and remove these polyps, the less likely they can grow into an advanced polyp and ultimately turn into cancer,” Dr. Kwok explained. “Multiple studies have shown that precancerous colon polyp removal is protective against subsequent development of colon cancer.

Q: What methods are used to screen people for colorectal cancer?

A: Screenings are steps you should take to prevent colorectal cancer from developing. Kaiser Permanente recommends people 45 and older to get a screening with the following options:

• A yearly at-home fecal immunochemical test,

also known as FIT.

• For those at average risk, a sigmoidoscopy

every five years.

• For those at average risk, a colonoscopy

every ten years.

Q: What risk factors increase a person’s chance

of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal


A: Having a heavy diet of red meat and

processed meat.

• Being overweight and obese.

• Heavy use of alcohol and drugs.

• Having a family history of colon cancer and

inflammatory bowel disease.

• Have a family or personal history of Crohn’s

disease, colorectal polyps, or ulcerative colitis.

• Your racial and ethnic background or your

personal health history; for example, African-

Americans have the highest colorectal cancer

incidence; people with a history of kidney

transplants, and people with Type 2 diabetes

also have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Kaiser Permanente offers much information about colorectal cancer and the screening process at