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March Marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March 31, 2021 | Michael Barasch

Nearly half a million first responders and survivors who were exposed to Ground Zero toxins after 9/11 have a dramatically higher risk of developing  respiratory disease and 68 different types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth, called a polyp, on the inner lining of the colon or rectum which can eventually become cancerous.

The symptoms of colorectal cancer include 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, feeling that your bowel does not empty completely, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.

Other major risk factors for colorectal cancer are old age, a personal history of colon cancer or polyps, inflammatory intestinal conditions, family history, smoking, alcohol consumption, and a low-fiber, high-fat diet.

A report from the American Cancer Society estimates that 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2021. 

Thankfully, early detection of colorectal cancer can save your life. When found at an early stage before it has spread, colorectal cancer has a 5-year relative survival rate of about 90%.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends regular screenings for colorectal cancer for anyone between 50 and 75 years-of-age, with early screenings advised for anyone with serious risk factors such as exposure to Ground Zero toxins.

Accessing treatment for colorectal cancer through the World Trade Center Health Program – which might include chemotherapy, radiation, and medication – can dramatically improve your quality of health if started early.

Protect yourself by visiting a primary care provider regularly and reporting any problems that could indicate colorectal cancer.

If you are diagnosed with colorectal cancer or any of the other cancers or respiratory diseases impacting the 9/11 community, please contact us for resources on accessing free health care and compensation. 

Visit or call 212-385-8000 today.

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