Colorectal Cancer More Likely to Affect Black Community
Much progress has been made around the detection and treatment of colorectal cancer. However, there is still work to be done. While death rates are dropping among older adults, colorectal cancer continues to affect the Black community in greater numbers than any other group. According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans in the United States are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and 40% more likely to die from it.
African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any ethnic group for most cancers, according to the American Cancer Society’s 2019-2021 Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans study. However, they go on to note that the mortality rate has narrowed between white and Black individuals over the past 25 years.
There seems to be no one reason for this distinct difference in case and death rates. Results of studies vary. Some have pointed to socioeconomic barriers like access to high-quality care, timely diagnosis and treatment as factors. Other studies indicate that, even when considering these factors, there is still a gap in survival rates.
Proven risk factors for colorectal cancer
Even if there is no clear consensus on why the incidence of and death from colorectal cancer is higher in the Black population, there are a number of risk factors that make any individual more likely to develop colorectal cancer. These include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity
- Poor diet or diets high in red or processed meats
- Alcohol use
Other uncontrollable factors that may lead to a higher likelihood of colon cancer are:
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
- A history of inflammatory bowel disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Other inherited genetic factors
While no one can control all of the factors that may lead to the development of colorectal cancer, it is important to pay attention to those we can. Modifying diet and increasing physical activity, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol use are all steps in the right direction.
Screening for colorectal cancer
While screening cannot eliminate the factors present in developing colorectal cancer, it is a crucial step in discovering polyps while they are small and before they are allowed to spread. And, while screening cannot prevent the incidence of colorectal cancer, it can drastically change the outcome. If diagnosed and treated early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable.
Screening methods include colonoscopy and fecal sample tests. Fecal sample tests or fecal immunochemical tests, referred to as FIT tests, are an effective screening tool used to detect blood in the stool. Blood in the stool can be a sign of cancer. FIT tests fall into two categories:
- FIT. A once-a-year test.
- FIT-DNA. A once every three years test.
Both FIT screenings can be completed in the privacy of a patient’s home using a kit provided by a doctor. Both tests involve a single sample that a patient returns to a lab location for testing. Most people prefer these easy, at-home screenings as they do not require any advance preparation, sedation or a scheduled appointment. A positive result from a FIT screening must be followed by a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is a physical exam of the colon that is performed by a doctor using a colonoscope inserted into the rectum. A tiny camera on the colonoscope allows the doctor to view inside the colon. If any polyps are found during the colonoscopy, the doctor is able to remove and subsequently test them for cancer.
Take charge of your health by having the conversation
While some of the information around colorectal cancer might seem confusing, the underlying message is clear. With early detection, colorectal cancer is highly treatable and survivable. It is important to talk with your doctor about colorectal cancer. They can review your health, your family history and help you to decide when the time is right for you to be screened for colorectal cancer.
If you do not have a primary care doctor, Bronson has Care Advisors who can help you choose one for yourself or your family based on your personal preferences, medical needs, insurance and location. They can even help schedule your first appointment. Click here for more information or call them at (269) 341-7788.
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