By Anne Fabrizio
Buttocks. Butt. Bum. Booty. Badonkadonk. That’s just a few ways we refer to our bottoms. We speak freely about our rear ends when it comes to dancing or working out. In pop culture, we celebrate it. There are hundreds of songs dedicated to the exultation of the backside. However, when it comes to the health of our backsides, we’ve got some work to do. Despite the comfort we have singing songs about our butts, there remains social embarrassment discussing when things aren’t right.
Too many times, I’ve seen people ignore symptoms and brush them aside. “I’ve just been a little constipated, it’s probably stress and bad diet.” “That blood in my stool? It’s probably just a hemorrhoid.” Sure, it could be those things, but we need to stop ignoring symptoms and make sure that people are aware that these could be signs of colorectal cancer. We also need to acknowledge the fact that many colorectal cancers are asymptomatic, which is why screening is so important.
According to the CDC, colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related death with approximately 50,000 Americans dying of colorectal cancer each year. Last year, the American Cancer Society updated its guidelines for colorectal screening by changing the starting age from 50 to 45. These recommendations are based on the fact that despite the decline in the rate of colorectal cancer in older adults, incidence is increasing in young and middle-age populations.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. First established via presidential proclamation on February 29, 2000, the month is a celebration intended to increase awareness of colon cancer and colon cancer screening. This year, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s public awareness campaign is the “Don’t Assume” campaign, with the goal to “challenge assumptions and misconceptions about colorectal cancer.”
One of the reasons I entered medicine was because I lost my grandmother to colon cancer. It’s not an uncommon story. We’ve all lost someone to colorectal cancer or know someone who has. And yet, less than 70% of adults in the United States aged 50-75 years are up-to-date with screening. There are over 3 million people in the US alone that need to be screened. One quarter of the population has never been screened once.
Screening saves lives. Let’s get out there and spread the word this month and every other month of the year. Colonoscopy is a safe and effective mean of identifying early lesions and preventing the development of cancer. Get screened. It could save your rear end or the rear end of someone you love. Because who doesn’t want to get back to enjoying a long life of celebratory songs about butts?
Anne Fabrizio, MD is a fellow in colon and rectal surgery at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. She attended Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and went on to complete her general surgery residency at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. Her research interests include outcomes and the microbiome. You can find her on twitter @annebchin.
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