March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month/ Early CRC Detection Improves Survivorship

By Oralia Garcia Dominic, Ph.D., M.A., M.S.

In honor of National Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness Month, many of us are observing this time by presenting and reporting on cancer prevention, treatment and control. In this article, I will provide you with general information about CRC and ways to prevent it.

According for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), CRC is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. CRC affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. It is often found in persons aged 50 years and older, but can also be found in younger persons. In the U.S., CRC is the third most common cancer for men and women.

CRC is the third-leading cancer killer in the United States for both men and women. For Latinos, CRC is the second-leading cancer killer in the United States. Also, Latinos have more late stage diagnosis of CRC. Late-stage CRC is more difficult to treat. The good news is that early detection of CRC improves survivorship.


Can CRC be Prevented?

Answer: Yes!

CRC is one of the most preventable cancers. Detection and removal of adenomatous polyps has been shown through randomized clinical trials to reduce CRC incidence and mortality rates.

Testing (screening) can stop CRC before it starts, or find it early, when it is likely to be easier to treat. Diet and exercise play an important role in CRC prevention.


Underutilization of CRC Screening

CRC screening can save lives. Unfortunately, CRC screening rates remain low for Latinos in the U.S. In Pennsylvania, in 2010, only 64 percent of adults 50 years and older said they were up-to-date with CRC screening.

Up-to-date means the person had a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) during the previous year, a sigmoidoscopy the past five, a FOBT within the previous three, or a colonoscopy within the previous 10. These screening rates are much lower for Latinos. This may be due to existing or perceived barriers to CRC screenings.


Barriers to CRC

Barriers reported to CRC screening among Latinos in the United States include: lack of health care coverage and low levels of education, fatalism, lack of knowledge about or awareness of CRC, language barriers, lack of insurance, undocumented legal status, seeking health care only when sick, fear, denial,  other needs more pressing than preventive care, use of home remedies rather than biomedical care, lack of communication skills and self-efficacy skills to act on motivation, unavailability and inaccessibility of FOBT kits, perceived lack of social support and physician recommendation.

Barriers to CRC among Latinos in Pennsylvania

In 2012, myself and Eugene Lengerich published results of a first ever research study in Pennsylvania comparing CRC screening behaviors of Latinos by geography (urban and rural) and sex (male and female) status. We also examined barriers to CRC screening among this population.

In this study, we found substantial barriers by sex and geography, including urban residents received screenings during annual check-ups, while rural residents received screenings in response to symptoms.  Low levels of health literacy, knowledge and awareness of CRC risk and screening were reported barriers across groups. The family unit and strong social support were also factors reported as influencing their CRC screening behavior. Participants identified 57 barriers to CRC screening that fit into five categories: (a) physical environment, (b) structural factors, (c) sociocultural factors, (d) individual factors and (e) physician-related barriers. Latino participants also identified potential strategies to overcome each reported barrier. These findings suggest that a targeted CRC screening intervention utilizing a physician-recommended home fecal immunochemical test with instructions is preferred among Latinos over a non-targeted approach.

If you have diabetes, please talk with your doctor about CRC risk.

Remember you can protect yourself from CRC, you can also send me your health questions to  Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy!  ¡Salud!


Talk with your Doctor about CRC risk

Talk with your doctor about finding ways you can prevent, control and treat CRC.  Talk to your doctor about CRC screening options for you and your loved ones. CRC screening saves lives. Remember, early CRC detection improves survivorship.


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