Red Bank, NJ – March 28, 2014 – March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, although colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the U.S., with estimates for 2014 topping 50,000 deaths, there are many ways to protect yourself.

Simply put, colorectal cancer is the formation of malignant cells found in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which is part of the digestive system. Because colon cancer and rectal cancers have many features in common, they are sometimes referred to together as colorectal cancer.

Robert Gialanella, M.D., a gastroenterologist affiliated with Riverview Medical Center, and Bonnie L. Robinson-Gallaro, M.D., of Bayshore Community Hospital provide important information on the risks and prevention of colorectal cancer.

 “While this form of cancer can occur at any age,” says Dr. Gialanella, “the majority of those who suffer from it are over the age of 50.” Besides age, there are a few important risk factors everyone should be aware of. “Colorectal cancer is most often associated with a diet high in red meats and processed foods” says Dr. Robinson-Gallaro, “ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease also increases the risk of colorectal cancer.”

Although the exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, it may be possible to lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

“It’s important to manage the risk factors you can control,” says Dr. Gialanella, “diet, body weight, and exercise are all within your ability to change.” Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods, and limiting red and processed meats, plus exercising appropriately, even small amounts on a regular basis, can be helpful.

“Knowledge is the first step to beating cancer,” says Dr. Gialanella, “one of the most effective forms of prevention is having screening tests at appropriate ages.”  Screening may find some colorectal polyps that can be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous. Because some colorectal cancers cannot be prevented, finding them early is the best way to improve the chance of successful treatment, and reduce the number of deaths caused by colorectal cancer

According to Dr. Robinson-Gallaro, “All women and men at average risk for colorectal cancer should have a screening test for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50. However,” she adds, “People who are at higher risk for colorectal cancer may need to begin screening tests at a younger age.”

There are several methods available for screening of colorectal cancer. The two most common of these are the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and colonoscopy.

A  FOBT looks for blood in the stool, which can be caused by a variety of conditions; colorectal cancer is only one of them. The FOBT uses a chemical reaction to detect blood in small samples of stool that have been placed on a FOBT sample card. How often should you receive this test? Dr. Robinson-Gallaro recommends, “For people at average risk, the FOBT should be conducted every one to two years.”

Perhaps the most common testing method, a colonoscopy test uses a slender, flexible lighted tube to examine the entire colon. One benefit of a colonoscopy is that if a polyp is found, physicians are able to remove it during the screening. Both Dr. Robinson-Gallaro and Dr. Gialanella encourage their patients to receive a colonoscopy every ten years.