Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) is a global initiative, and takes place annually in March. Locally, the theme for CCAM is “Ignoring a Gut Feeling?”.
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in South African, and also the fourth most common cause of death all cancer types in men and women worldwide, killing around 700 000 people each year. Approximately one million new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed worldwide each year.
It can happen to anyone
While the disease is typically found in persons over the age of 50, colorectal cancer can affect anyone, regardless of gender or social status.
De Klerk is proof of this. He was diagnosed six years ago during a routine check-up, and has since made a remarkable recovery.
He says: “The post-operative diagnosis was that the cancer had started many years before its detection. I was fortunate in that my neglect to take precautionary measures could be rectified by an operation and effective treatment by an excellent oncologist. Many others are not so fortunate.”
“The lesson for all, from my experience, is to start taking precautionary measures and to have precautionary examinations at a relatively young age,” says de Klerk.
De Klerk has offered his support to Be Cancer Aware during the campaign, and hopes that telling his story will inspire others to get tested.
Aim for early detection and treatment
The risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer begins at age 40 and increases after the age of 50 – both men and women should be screened. Risk factors revolve around a poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, family history of colorectal cancer, and age.
“If diagnosed and treated early, colorectal cancer is treatable and in many cases curable,” says Cape Town-based Oncologist, Dr Garth Davids.
Davids explains that colorectal cancer can occur anywhere in the colon or rectum. “The cancer develops when the normal process of renewal among the cells lining the bowel is interrupted. A tumour may form, which, if detected at an early stage, can be removed and patients’ have a chance of a full recovery and quality of life. If the cancer has reached a more advanced stage, other treatment options such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be considered. Chemotherapy with targeted therapy may be an option for some patients”, he says.
Be Cancer Aware encourages people to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer through regular screenings and examinations from the age of 40. Regular screenings are the only way to detect and prevent colorectal cancer and early detection is vital for a favourable prognosis.
Information in a flash
The “Ignoring a Gut Feeling?” campaign aims to get people talking about colorectal cancer. Be Cancer Aware, with the assistance of V&A Waterfront Mall (Cape Town), Melrose Arch Shopping Centre (Johannesburg) and City View Mall (Durban), together with local dance schools will implement flash mobs at these Shopping Malls throughout the second half of March.