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Since colorectal cancer claimed the life of her husband in 1998, Katie Couric, anchor of the CBS Evening News, has brought much awareness to the fact that colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second leading

cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for both men and women combined.

But, unlike many forms of cancer, approximately 90% of all colorectal cancer cases and deaths are preventable; early detection is important.

As March is National Colorectal Awareness Month, now is the time to get the facts about colorectal cancer and prevention. According to the American Cancer Society, some tips for prevention are as follows: get regular screening tests after the age of 50 (earlier if you have a family history); exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight; eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and don’t smoke and don’t drink alcohol excessively.

Some risk factors are as follows:

  • Men and women age 50 and older
  • People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer
  • People who use tobacco.
  • People who are obese and are sedentary

Often the first symptoms of colorectal cancer may be overlooked or associated with other health conditions. The symptoms if present may include rectal bleeding, blood in or on the stool, general stomach discomfort, diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, frequent gas pains, and vomiting, among other symptoms.