Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Observed in March

Thursday, March 30, 2006 | 06:00pm

Colorectal Cancer 90 Percent Curable With Screenings

Nashville, March 31, 2006

The end of March marks the closing of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, an observance created in 2000 by the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation to increase awareness of the importance of regular screening to save lives and decrease the national burden of colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum). The Tennessee Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition (TCC) encourages all Tennesseans to get screened for colorectal cancer if they are over the age of 50 or are at risk.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States and third in Tennessee. In 2002 (the most recent year for which data is available), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 139,534 adults in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 56,603 adults died from colorectal cancer. In 2004, 1,061 Tennesseans died of colorectal cancer, according to the Tennessee Department of Health’s Division of Health Statistics, and an estimated 3,470 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed (from the American Cancer Society).

“I lost both of my paternal aunts to colorectal cancer, so I encourage everyone to do the simple test for blood in the stool once a year, which is inexpensive and effective,” said Health Commissioner Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D. “If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, like I do, more frequent and involved testing may be indicated.”

Men and women who have no symptoms or relevant risk factors should begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50. A fecal occult blood test that measures blood in the stool is recommended every year. Other tests include flexible sigmoidoscopy and double-contrast barium enema that are recommended every five years. A colonoscopy test is recommended every 10 years. However, if you are at risk for colorectal cancer, your primary care physician may determine tests more frequently or earlier.

Risk factors associated with colorectal cancer include being over the age of 50, a personal or family history of colon cancer or intestinal polyps, tobacco use, inactivity and high fat diet. Race is also a risk factor, with African-Americans less likely to have colorectal cancer diagnosed in the earliest and most treatable stages. The American Cancer Society noted that from 1992 to 2000, African-Americans had a 55 percent survival rate for colorectal cancer, compared to the white survival rate at 64 percent.

TCCCC, a collaboration led by the Tennessee Department of Health and the CDC, was formed in June 2005 to address and reduce the burden of cancer on the state of Tennessee over the next three years. TCCCC also launched a three-year state cancer plan to achieve the goal of preventing and reducing the rate of colorectal cancer in Tennessee. Now with 255 volunteers, TCCCC has established five regional chapters throughout Tennessee, but is seeking more volunteers to combat colorectal and other cancer. TCCCC has been active in the promotion of activities in observation of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, including:

  • The Middle Tennessee regional coalition’s colorectal cancer action team has established booths and held information sessions at three Metro-Davidson County Health Department sites, distributing approximately 500 colorectal cancer awareness kits, including health information, current test types and recommended screenings.
  • The West Tennessee-Jackson coalition in conjunction with West Tennessee Cancer Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center held a Colorectal Cancer Answers program March 2, 2006, at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. “Preventing Colon Cancer One Step At A Time” presented by Jay Groves, Ed.D., exercise physiologist and administrative director of Kim Dayani Health Promotion Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and “Preventing Colon Cancer through Screening and Early Detection” presented by Robert Hollis, M.D., gastroenterologist, Medical Specialty Clinic of West Tennessee Physicians’ Alliance were featured programs.
  • The West Tennessee-Memphis coalition began work on an intensive colorectal cancer educational project to be held mid-May in area churches.

For more information on the state’s cancer plan and the Tennessee Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, please visit or call TCCCP at 1-800-547-3558. Information about colorectal cancer and prevention programs is available at

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