Everyday Wellness: Be the ultimate survivor

March 3, 2011

Did you know that if everyone age 50 or older had regular screenings for colorectal cancer, at least 60 percent of deaths from this cancer could be avoided? Regular screenings can often find colorectal cancer early, when it is most treatable. Purdue’s medical plans cover colonoscopies, and most other preventive care services, at no cost to you.

In 2010, more than 140,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, making it the third most prevalent form of cancer in the country. If caught early, it’s also one of the most curable types. Research from the American Cancer Society shows that if colorectal cancer is found early, survival rates can exceed 90 percent. More than half of people diagnosed have no symptoms.

No one is immune to the risk of cancer, even if you lead a healthy lifestyle or have no family history of the disease. The best weapon for early detection -- and prevention -- is regular screening. Advances in technology have made colorectal cancer screenings more effective, and most take only minutes to complete.

How Purdue can help

* Medical Coverage Plans
For information on your Purdue medical plan, including colonoscopies provided at no cost to you, go to www.purdue.edu/hr/Benefits/Medical/Welcome.html, or contact a LiveWell Advocate at 800-767-7141 or PurdueLiveWell@CIGNA.com.

* Preventive Care Quick Reference Guide
To view CIGNA’s Quick Reference Guide to Preventive Health Coverage visit www.purdue.edu/hr/pdf/PreventiveCareQuickReference.pdf.

* WorkLife Programs dietitians
According to the American Cancer Society, obesity and physical inactivity may account for 25 to 30 percent of several major cancers, including colon cancer. A WorkLife Programs dietitian can help you with nutrition counseling and teach you how to choose and prepare the foods already shown by research to help protect against cancer.

* WorkLife Programs offerings
For a listing of all WorkLife Programs offerings, including the Cancer and Nutrition class, go to www.purdue.edu/worklife and log in with your career account and password, or call 49-45461.

Know your risk

The National Cancer Institute has an interactive tool to help estimate a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. Go to www.cancer.gov/colorectalcancerrisk/tool.aspx to assess your risk.

Factors that can make your risk of colorectal cancer higher include:
* Close relatives (parents, brothers, sisters or children) who have had colorectal cancer.
* History of colorectal polyps.
* Obesity.
* Cigarette smoking.
* Inactive lifestyle.

Factors that can lower your risk of colorectal cancer include:
* Colorectal cancer screening.
* Maintaining a healthy weight.
* Regular, vigorous exercise.
* A diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and with very little red or processed meat.
* Limiting alcoholic beverage intake.

Five myths about colorectal cancer

Myth: Colorectal cancer is a man’s disease.
Truth: Colorectal cancer is just as common among women as men.

Myth: Colorectal cancer cannot be prevented.
Truth: In many cases colorectal cancer can be prevented. Colorectal cancer almost always starts with a small growth called a polyp. If the polyp is found early, doctors can remove it and stop colorectal cancer before it starts. Tests that can find polyps are double contrast barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy).

Myth: African-Americans are not at risk for colorectal cancer.
Truth: African-American men and women are diagnosed with and die from colorectal cancer at higher rates than men and women of any other U.S. racial or ethnic group.

Myth: Age doesn’t matter when it comes to getting colorectal cancer.
Truth: More than 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases are in people age 50 and older. For this reason, the American Cancer Society recommends you start getting tested for the disease at age 50. People who are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer -- such as those who have colon or rectal cancer in their families -- may need to begin testing at a younger age. Talk to your doctor about when you should start getting tested.

Myth: It’s better not to get tested for colorectal cancer because it’s deadly anyway.
Truth: Colorectal cancer is often highly treatable. If it is found and treated early (while it is small and before it has spread), the five-year survival rate is about 90 percent. But because many people are not getting tested, only about 4 out of 10 are diagnosed at this early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful.

For more information, resources or to read past and current articles, go to www.purdue.edu/everydaywellness.

* Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment tool: www.cancer.gov/colorectalcancerrisk/Default.aspx
* Resources from the American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org/Cancer/ColonandRectumCancer/DetailedGuide/colorectal-cancer-additional-resources
* Colorectal Cancer 2011 Fact Sheet from the Prevent Cancer Foundation: www.preventcancer.org/uploadedFiles/Colorectal%20Cancer%202011%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
* Colorectal cancer basic information from the CDC: www.cdc.gov/cancer/Colorectal/basic_info/
* Colorectal Cancer, Catch It Early, Get Screened-- a brochure from the Office of Minority Health: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=4952&lvl=3&lvlID=316