In February 2000, President Bill Clinton officially dedicated March as National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Since then, it has grown to be a rallying point for the colon cancer community where thousands of patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates throughout the country join together to spread colon cancer awareness by wearing blue, holding fundraising and education events, talking to friends and family about screening and so much more.
March is also National Kidney Month intended to promote awareness about chronic kidney disease (CKD), a condition that one in every 10 adults* (age 20 or older) in the United States has, as well as people with end stage renal disease (ESRD) who need dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which is the lower part of the body’s digestive system. During digestion, food moves through the stomach and small intestine into the colon. The colon absorbs water and nutrients from the food and stores waste matter (stool). Stool moves from the colon into the rectum before it leaves the body.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the 3rd most common cancer in both men and women with 132,700 new cases in the United States in 2015. This represented 8% of all new cases of cancer. There were 49,700 colon cancer deaths in 2015, comprising 8.4% of all cancer-related deaths in the United States.
In North Carolina, the incidence of CRC was 39.6 per 100,000 population, and there was an average of 4,067 new cases annually between 2010 and 2014. There have been improvements in colon cancer rates over time because of increased CRC screening with colonoscopy. But, racial and ethnic disparities still exist, especially in North Carolina.
The incidence of CRC among non- Hispanic whites in North Carolina in the period 2009–2013 was 37.1 per 100,000 people. But among non-Hispanic Blacks the rate was 46.6 per 100,000 people. Similarly, the death rate due to CRC is much higher among Black North Carolinians (20.1 per 100,000) compared with their non-Hispanic white counterparts (13.1 per 100,000).
A major factor in the higher incidence and higher mortality in CRC among Blacks is lower rates of colon cancer screening. Julius M. Wilder MD, PhD. at Duke Division of Gastroenterology and Duke Clinical Research Institute states, “During Colon cancer awareness month, lets make sure everyone gets appropriate CRC screening. Colonoscopy decreases the risk of colon cancer and saves lives.”
Desiree Palmer, DMD, states, “Fiber rich foods, found in fruits and vegetables, along with a well- balanced diet is essential for colon health and optimal for kidney health too. Foods with fiber stimulate saliva flow, which is a natural defense against tooth decay. Opt for crisp fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots and celery. They make wonderful snack choices!
African Americans and Kidney Disease
Kidney disease develops when kidneys lose their ability to remove waste and maintain fluid and chemical balances in the body. The severity of CKD depends on how well the kidneys filter wastes from the blood. It can progress quickly or take many years to develop.
Because there are little to no signs of the condition, most people are not even aware that they have kidney disease until it reaches the later stages, including kidney failure.
Due to high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, African Americans have an increased risk of developing kidney failure. African Americans need to be aware of these risk factors and visit their doctor or clinic regularly to check their blood sugar, blood pressure, urine protein and kidney function.
- African Americans suffer from kidney failure at a significantly higher rate than Caucasians – more than 3 times higher.
- African Americans constitute more than 35% of all patients in the U.S. receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but only represent 13.2% of the overall U.S. population.
- Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in African Americans. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as Caucasians.
- High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure among African Americans. Make sure you control your blood pressure by taking medication as prescribed and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Here are three steps that you can take to prevent kidney disease and to detect it early in order to slow the progression to kidney failure:
- Ask your family for information. Talk to your parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles about whether anyone in your family has high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease.
- Get tested. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, a family history of kidney failure or are over age 60, you should be tested.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. If you have risk factors for kidney disease or are living with kidney disease, you can protect your kidneys and preserve your kidney health by following a healthy lifestyle. Adopt a low salt diet, try to maintain a healthy body weight, Increase your physical activity to incorporate extra minutes of physical activity per week. Don’t smoke. Avoid alcohol to excess and steer clear of street drugs.
REMEMBER the ABC’s:
Ask your doctor about screening recommendations.
Be knowledgeable about your family history; know yourself and your risks.
Control your smoking habits (Don’t Smoke or Stop) and Control your weight by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly.
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