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Cancer Prevention

  • Colorectal cancer is preventable.
  • Colorectal cancer is treatable.
  • Colorectal cancer is beatable.

Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in United States1 and impacts communities throughout Virginia. Colorectal cancer usually begins as a non-cancerous polyp on the inner lining of the colon, some polyps become cancerous while others do not.2 Screening may help detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous. Although screening is an effective means of removing precancerous polyps, nearly 1 in 3 Americans meeting screening recommendation guidelines do not utilize these services.3 In addition to screening, lifestyle modifications such as increased physical activity and improved dietary habits may help prevent colorectal cancer from developing.4

Increased screening rates and having healthy lifestyles are essential to reducing the public health burden of colorectal cancer. Virginia Cooperative Extension is in an ideal position to be a key player in this effort. To this end, Extension has joined the national effort to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80% in every community. Extension Agents are increasing awareness of colorectal cancer, promoting colorectal cancer screening, and encouraging lifestyles that reduce cancer risk by conducting the Colon Cancer Free Zone program in worksites in their service communities.

1 ACS Cancer Statistics Center

2 ACS, How Does Colorectal Cancer Start

3 NCCRT, 80% by 2018 Resource Packet

4 ACS, Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

  • All VCE employees will know how colorectal cancer screening saves lives.
  • All VCE employees will know what screening options are available, and the screening guidelines.
  • By June 2018, VCE will have an 80% screening rate among employees between the ages of 50 and 74 years.
  • All VCE employees will know what the lifestyle recommendations are for reducing colorectal cancer risk.  An environment of health will be promoted in VCE employees throughout the Commonwealth.

Five Myths About Colorectal Cancer:  

Myth: Colorectal cancer is a man’s disease.

Truth: Colorectal cancer is almost as common among women as men. Each year in the U.S., about 71,000 men and 64,000 women are diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

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, it can be removed – stopping colorectal cancer before it starts.

Myth: Age doesn’t matter when it comes to getting colorectal cancer.

Truth: Most colorectal cancers are found in people age 50 and older. For this reason, the American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk start getting checked for this cancer when they’re 50.

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’s found and treated early (while it’s small and before it has spread), the 5-year relative survival rate is about 90%. But because many people are not getting tested the way they should, only about 4 out of 10 are diagnosed at this early stage when treatment is most likely to be successful.

Source: American Cancer Society

  • Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. yet it can be prevented or detected at an early stage.
  • There are several screening options available to detect colorectal cancer, including simple take-home options. Talk to your doctor about getting screened.
  • Preventing colon cancer or finding it early doesn’t have to be expensive. There are simple, affordable tests available. Get Screened! Call your doctor today.
  • Most health insurance plans cover lifesaving preventive tests. Use the benefits you are paying for to get screened for colon cancer. Call your doctor today.

Source: National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable

The Colon Cancer Free Zone program (CCFZ) is a program conducted by Extension Agents in worksites to increase awareness of the preventable nature of colorectal cancer, and promote colorectal cancer screening.  CCFZ is designed using best practice principles of worksite health programs and includes information sessions covering the topics of colorectal cancer, screening guidelines, insurance coverage, and preventive lifestyle behaviors.  It is conducted in a campaign format that includes a strategic communication strategy targeting relevant screening barriers and facilitators, peer champions, and incentives.  Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for more information and to bring the program to your worksite.

CCFZ In-Service Training for Extension Agents

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  • Article Item
    Michelle Olgers, Director of Marketing and Communications, Virginia State University , article

    "After dragging my feet an entire year to do my recommended CRS at age 50, I finally scheduled my appointment. My primary care physician had given me the name of a doctor whom his office regularly recommended to patients. Because of some traveling I had to do for work, I scheduled the appointment about three months out. The office mailed me a thick packet of info on the procedure and called in a prescription to my local pharmacy for the products I needed to prep for the procedure. Three months passed quickly; and before I knew it, it was one week before my CRS. I called my pharmacy to ensure that the items I needed were ready to pick up; I also checked that the over-the-counter item required for the prep was available. I picked up the items, and worked from home the next day as I started my 24-hour liquid diet and began to drink the colon-cleanse 'potions.' I have to say that drinking the potion' wasn’t really that bad at all. My husband said it was because I was used to drinking what he likes to call 'vile concoctions' I make in the blender — drinks I like to call smoothies! Nonetheless, not eating for a day and drinking the less-than-yummy stuff was very tolerable. And the results, well, though not exactly pleasant, were just what the doctor ordered. The next morning, my husband drove me to the out-patient office. I checked in, waited about 20 minutes, and was escorted to the back. I changed, talked to a few nurses and an anesthesiologist, and was then told to enjoy my 'nap.' For some reason, I was extremely tired that morning, so I welcomed the nap. The nurse injected a fat syringe of clear liquid into my IV drip and said it would burn a bit, but would get better quickly. She was right. The next thing I knew, I was waking up, procedure over. I never even knew it happened, and I had no tell-tale signs or aches or pains to even indicate anything was done to me. The doctor stopped in and gave me a clean bill of health, no problems. But, because my mother had polyps when she had her CRS, he recommended that I come back in five years instead of the usual 10. After dressing, I was escorted out in a wheel chair to the car where my husband waited. The two of us drove five minutes to a Thai restaurant that, thankfully, was already open at 11:15, and we had a very enjoyable early lunch."

  • Article Item
    Jackie Tull, 4-H Youth Development, Accomack County Cooperative Extension , article

    “I would like to tell my experience with colon cancer to encourage people who have digestive issues to get it checked out by a doctor. I was having problems with weight loss and digestive issues for about eight months and had lost 25 pounds in that time. My gastroenterologist suggested I have a colonoscopy since it had been 8 years since my first one. During the procedure he found a polyp growing in the wall of my intestines and suggested I have it removed. I underwent surgery at which time they removed a foot of my intestines and it was cancer. I finished chemo in February, 2016 and so far all of my follow up test have come back clear. I was in the lucky 41% of cases that were found early and I was 49 years old at the time. The doctor told me that a key sign of colon cancer is unexplained weight loss. My message is that if you are having digestive symptoms and unexplained weight loss, go see your doctor.”

  • Article Item
    Leslie Fain, FCS Extension Agent, James City County , article

    “My family history is high with cancers, my mother passed at age 48 with melanoma, ignoring the change of a mole on her arm. My father had colon cancer at age 58 and died from both colon and esophageal cancer at age 60. My first scare was at age 36 when I experienced bleeding and had my first colonoscopy and discovered I had premalignant polyps. My colonoscopies have been at first every year, then every 3 years as there were no issues or signs, and next every 5 years. I am due again now, and will be scheduling the procedure. My gastroenterologist now wants my grown daughters at age 30 to begin their screenings as well. Please know your family’s history of cancer, and talk to your doctor about when you and your family members should start being screened for colon cancer.”

  • Article Item
    Joe Hunnings, Director of Planning & Reporting, Professional Development, Civil Rights Compliance , article

    “While I always planned to get my second colonoscopy when I turned 60, that day passed without me setting up an appointment. The 80% by 2108 campaign spurred me to get this done. It is too important and too easy to disregard it.”

  • Article Item
    Sonya Furgurson, Unit Coordinator, Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development, Halifax County Cooperative Extension , article

    "Practicing what we preach is not always easy. Those of us who are service-minded often put others ahead of ourselves. We go too long before getting the oil changed in our cars and reschedule or cancel appointments to accommodate others. I’m guilty. My doctor hounded me for two years to get a colonoscopy. I dreaded it for lots of reasons. However, in the end, all the worrying was unnecessary. Yes, the prep isn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible. The hour-and-15-minute ride from my house to the facility was fine, too. Even the anesthesia, which usually makes me violently ill, did not make me even the slightest bit nauseous. I received my results immediately. I’m good for another 5 years — one less thing to worry about."

80% by 2018 Emblem

Upcoming Webinars

"Taking the Fight to Colorectal Cancer: Latest advanced in early detection and treatment"

Presented by Dr. Khalid Matin, Medical Director, Community Oncology and Clinical Research Affiliation, VCU Massey Cancer Center

Date: March 7, 12:00 noon
Access code: 647 581 016

Past Webinars

Note: We've experienced issues with WebEx recordings playing in Firefox. If you get an error in Firefox, please try using a different browser, e.g., Chrome or Safari.

• Get the Facts: Breast Cancer
Presented by Dr. Young Ju, associate professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise

Breast cancer prevention and control: Key messages your community needs to hear
Presented by Kristin Harris, executive director of the Central Virginia affiliate of Susan G. Komen; and Carlin Rafie, Extension specialist with VCE

• Get moving to reduce your colorectal cancer risk

• Have your cake and eat it too: Decreasing your colorectal cancer risk through smart food choices


• Colorectal Cancer: What is it, and how do I get screened?
Presented by Dr. Farrel Adkins, specialist in colorectal surgery, Carilion Healthcare; and
Dr. John Michos, medical director, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield


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Carlin Rafie
Adult Nutrition Specialist