March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. At Riverside, we know that early detection of colorectal cancer saves lives.

Your colon, also called the large intestine, plays a major role in overall health. The colon removes nutrients, salt and water to form stool. The walls of your colon are lined with muscles, guiding its contents along. Billions of bacteria coat the colon and its contents, living in a healthy balance with the body.

Anatomically, the colon connects to the small intestine via the ileum to the cecum (last part of the small intestine to the first part of the colon) in the lower right abdomen. The rest of the colon is divided into four parts: ascending, transverse, descending and the sigmoid colon, and attaches to the rectum.

1. Maintain a healthy weight
2. Exercise regularly - low physical activity is linked to increased risk for colorectal cancer
3. Don't smoke and if you do, consider quitting
4. Limit alcohol intake (occasional consumption of alcohol is fine, but too much can increase your colon cancer risk)
5. Limit intake of red and processed meats (these foods may be linked to colorectal cancer)
6. Load up on vegetables, fruits and whole grains
7. Fill up on fiber (fiber makes you feel full and may help prevent overeating)

  • Are you over the age of 50?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with polyps in your colon or rectum?
  • Do you have a close family member (parent, child or sibling) who has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer?
  • Have you been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease?
  • Are you African American, Native American, Alaskan Native or of Eastern-European Jewish descent?
  • Does anyone in the family have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) or Lynch syndrome?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Is your lifestyle inactive?
  • Are you a smoker?

The more often you answered "Yes" to the above questions, the greater your risk for developing or having colorectal cancer. Talk to your physician to discuss when colorectal cancer screening is right for you.

If you are over 50, it's time to join the "colonoscopy club" and schedule this important screening. Many of our Riverside providers offer free consults so you can ask questions and learn more.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people ages 50 and older.

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. There are often no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer -that's why it's so important to get screened.

People over age 50 have the highest risk of colorectal cancer. You may also be at higher risk if you are African American, smoke or have a family history of colon or rectal cancer.

Everyone can take these healthy steps to help prevent colon cancer:

  • Get screened starting at age 50
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Get plenty of physical activity and eat healthy