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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
This cancer can affect anyone, but older Latinos may be particularly at risk.
Know the facts about colorectal cancer, tips for screening and preventions, and how we can help researchers studying cancer.
What Should I Know About Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the disease of the colon and/or rectum.
“Most cases of colorectal cancer occur in people ages 45 and older, but the disease is increasingly affecting younger people. Each year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with this disease and more than 50,000 die,” according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
Many people in the early stages of colorectal cancer do not experience symptoms.
However, symptoms might develop later on in the disease.
Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms:
- A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Colorectal cancer starts as a polyp, which is a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum, according to the American Cancer Society.
Some polyps grow into cancer over time, but not all of them do.
Thankfully, colorectal cancer can be managed through screening and surgery.
“Unlike most cancers, colorectal cancer is often preventable with screening and highly treatable when detected early,” according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
Options for screening include a colonoscopy, fecal immunochemical test, stool DNA test, and more.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women should begin colorectal cancer screenings at age 45, and earlier if you have a family history of the cancer.
How Are Latinos Affected by Colorectal Cancer?
Cancer is the #1 cause of death for Latinos.
Latinos experienced increased rates of many cancers, particularly liver, stomach, and cervical cancer.
While generally the rates of colorectal cancer are declining, the decrease is smaller among Latinos.
“Older Hispanics experienced smaller declines in [colorectal cancer (CRC)] incidence over time compared to whites, perhaps due to differences in screening uptake,” according to an NIH study.
Latinos often lack access to cancer screening and health care.
“There may also be differences in cultural and health beliefs contributing to screening, for example, Hispanics frequently report medical mistrust. Slower declines in CRC incidence, combined with low screening uptake, underscore the importance of screening outreach interventions targeted to Hispanic populations, such as those in community health centers and safety-net systems,” according to an NIH study.
Latino cancer health disparities are also driven by structural inequities that stem from governmental laws, economic policies, school systems, neighborhoods, businesses, research, and healthcare.
What Can You Do to Help Researchers Address Colorectal Cancer (and Other Cancers)?
Join a clinical trial!
Clinical trials are studies to find more effective treatments. This can help current cancer patients and achieve a better understand of cancer to help future survivors.
“Latinos in clinical trials are not only helping themselves, but they’re also building a future with better treatments that can help their families in the future,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, who is creating new ways to encourage Latinos to volunteer for clinical trials thanks to a grant from Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
Take it from Alma Lopez.
Lopez believes participating in a clinical trial at UT Health San Antonio helped her get better treatment.
“Clinical trials are great for finding new treatments that help people,” Lopez said. “It gives opportunity to better medication for all populations.”
In San Antonio, volunteer for:
- The Avanzando Caminos Trial. This trial aims to enroll 1,500 Latino cancer survivors help unpack the social, cultural, behavioral, mental, biological, and medical influences on post-cancer life. (en español)
- The Brain Health Registry. Signing up for this registry gives adults access to memory games and brain tests that can help the future creation of treatments for Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and other brain disorders.
- The eRapa Bladder Cancer Prevention Clinical Trial. This trial is studying encapsulated rapamycin (eRapa) and its ability to reduce the risk of bladder cancer recurrence.
- The Genetic Screening Clinical Trial. If you have a family history of cancer, you can help researchers learn how to better slow, manage, and/or treat these diseases.
- The PASS Clinical Trial. This trial aims to develop new tests and better strategies to help men decide if and when their prostate cancer needs treatment.
Find a cancer clinical trial at the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio.
You can also use the National Cancer Institute’s online search tool to find a cancer clinical trial in your area!