Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Doctors urge screenings to save lives

Diagnosis for people under 50 years old is on the rise, leading to a drop in screening age.
Doctors are working to increase awareness and education about colon cancer and screenings throughout March.
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 6:41 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) -Local doctors are working to increase awareness and education of colon cancer and screenings throughout March as part of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer and ranks second in cancer-related deaths overall according to a report from the American Cancer Society.

And in Arizona and across the US cases are on the rise, especially among people under 50 years of age.

“The incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing, and it’s decreasing in the age at which we’re finding it and increasing in severity. So, the stage at which we’re diagnosing it is more severe,” said Dr. Shane Svoboda, colorectal surgeon at Northwest Healthcare.

Since 2011, there has been a 2% increase per year in people under 50 years old diagnosed according to the American Cancer Society. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 153,020 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in the US. Of that number, 19,550 will be individuals under the age of 50.

Doctors say there is no conclusive answer as to why this is, but they do lay out some possible reasons.

“Some of the potential risk factors are attributed to poor dietary choices, increased obesity, lack of exercise, increased amounts of alcohol consumption, smoking, increase intake of processed foods, foods such as red meat,” said Dr. Junaid Arshad, assistant professor of medical oncology at the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

The rise in incidences has led to the screening age being dropped from 50 years old to 45 years old.

Many doctors agree this is a positive step in decreasing numbers as screening is the best preventive measure.

Especially here in Arizona as the state ranks in the bottom ten for up-to-date screenings.

“There is really no other cancer that we can actively prevent through something like a colonoscopy, meaning we can remove polyps before they get big and before they turn into colon cancer,” said Dr. Kavitha Tipirneni, a gastroenterologist at Arizona Gastroenterology. “We need to do a better job of getting the word out there because it is very much preventable. We can catch this early, and we can be very proactive about it.”

Tipirneni adds that individuals with a family history of colon cancer should take getting screened seriously, as this population accounts for 25% of diagnosis.

In addition to screenings, individuals can also reduce their smoking and alcohol consumption, change their eating habits, take up daily exercising, and take aspirin.

“Aspirin has been shown to us with the studies, it not only helps with risk factor such as prevention of stroke and heart diseases, it has also shown to improve the prevention from colon cancer as well, and this is taking aspirin on a daily basis for at least five to 10 years,” said Arshad.

For individuals who have not yet been screened, doctors add that if you experience symptoms of prolonged bloating, nausea, decreased appetite, or blood in your stool, you should immediately consult your doctor.

More information on colorectal cancer can be found on the American Cancer Society website at