Governor Reynolds will sign a state proclamation March 14, 2018, recognizing March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in Iowa. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Iowa, and one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Because colorectal cancer is highly treatable if detected early, all Iowans age 50 and over are encouraged to get screened for colorectal cancer. Iowans with a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer should talk with their health care provider about screening before the age of 50.

“Even though we know screening saves lives, the American Cancer Society estimates four out of every 10 adults who should get tested, don’t,” said IDPH Colorectal Cancer Program coordinator Jeanna Jones. “They may believe they’re not at risk, they don’t need testing because they don’t have symptoms, or they simply want to avoid what they consider to be an embarrassing procedure – but these myths only mean they are delaying what could be life-saving treatment.” Here are the facts about these common mistaken beliefs about colorectal cancer:

  1.  “I’m not at risk.” Fact: Risk increases with age. More than 90 percent of colorectal cancer occurs in people aged 50 and older. Those with a family history of colorectal cancer or individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are also at higher risk.
  2. “I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need screening.” Fact: Many people diagnosed with colorectal cancer often have no symptoms and people with polyps (small growths in the colon which can become cancerous if not removed) might not have symptoms either. If you wait to be tested until after symptoms develop, you might miss the chance to prevent the disease or catch it in an early stage.
  3. “It’s an embarrassing test.” Fact: There are actually a number of different tests for colorectal cancer and some can be done in the privacy of your home. Most people are familiar with the colonoscopy, which is performed by a specialist in a hospital or outpatient center in a private room. People who have a colonoscopy are given medicine to help them relax and many people sleep through the exam.

In addition to age and family history, other risk factors for colorectal cancer include lack of regular physical activity; a diet low in fruits and vegetables; a low-fiber, high-fat diet; being overweight; regular or heavy alcohol consumption; and tobacco use. To learn more about colorectal cancer, visit