March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and eternalHealth wants to raise awareness about this deadly disease. Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States, and 2023 estimates are projecting 153,020 people will be diagnosed this year alone.  Read on to educate yourself more on what colorectal cancer is, when to get screened, how to prevent it, and more!

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States effecting the colon and rectum, which are the final parts of the digestive tract. Colon cancer is found most commonly in adults 45 and older but has recently become more prevalent in those younger than 45 as well. This type of cancer usually begins with small, benign (noncancerous) clumps of cells called polyps that are found on the inside of the colon. While not common, it is possible for these polyps to become cancerous over time. These polyps may be small and produce few if any symptoms. To lower the risk of cancer, it is important to keep up with your annual wellness visits to screen and identify polyps.

Who Should Get Screened

Screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer, so it is a good idea to get tested annually. While it is important for everyone to get tested, there are risk factors that may put you at a higher risk, making getting screened even more crucial. These risk factors can include:

  1. History of Colorectal Polyps– if you have already had polyps, even noncancerous ones, you are at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  2. Older Age– although colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age, a vast majority of those diagnosed are older than 50.
  3. Race and Ethnicity- African-American men and women are more likely to get colorectal cancer that other races and ethnicities.
  4. Inflammatory Intestinal Conditions– such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
  5. Family History of Colorectal Cancer– you’re more likely to develop colon cancer if a blood relative has had the disease.
  6. Low Fiber- High Fat Diet– colorectal cancer may be associated with a common American diet, especially with those that have diets high in red meat and processed meat.
  7. Lifestyle– obesity, smoking, alcohol use, and a sedentary lifestyle all increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

While this is not a complete list of risk factors, it is important to talk to your doctor about your risks and what screening options are best for you. There are a number of different tests that are available based on your risk, so talk to your primary care doctor about which one would be best for you.

Couple with a doctor


The beginning stages of colorectal cancer frequently do not have any obvious symptoms, but when they do start to occur, it’s important to know what to look out for. Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  1. Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool.
  2. Persistent abdominal discomfort such as gas, pain, or cramping.
  3. A persistent change in your bowel habits, including increased constipation or diarrhea, or even a change in the consistency of your stools.
  4. Feeling as though your bowels are not emptying completely.
  5. Weakness or fatigue.
  6. Unexplained or unplanned weight loss.


The best way to catch and prevent colon cancer is screening regularly, but there are many lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. To reduce your risk, implement some or all of the following lifestyle changes.

  1. Eat More Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains– a diet high in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Use eternalHealth’s healthy grocery benefit* to start making some healthy meals to jump start this change!
  2. Drink alcohol in moderation– if you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount you consume daily.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight– utilize diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight, or to lose weight when needed. Eat whole foods and try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any planned weight loss regimens. With eternalHealth’s robust fitness benefit, you can take advantage of local and national fitness facilities, at home workouts, and over 28,000 on demand and live workouts, right from your home all at no extra cost to you!
  4. Stop smoking– studies have shown that smoking can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 20%. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit that may work best for you.
man enjoying a salad

Don’t Forget About Your Annual Wellness Visit!

Annual Wellness Visits were designed as a yearly appointment with your primary care provider to update and personalize a prevention plan with you. During this appointment weight, height, blood pressure, and other routine measures will be assessed, your risk of falls and hearing impairments will be reviewed, and a screening schedule will be created. This screening schedule includes things like screening for diabetes, depression, and colorectal cancers. Be sure to book your annual wellness visit and talk to your doctor about what is best for you and schedule your appointments today!

Although colorectal cancer is considered the second deadliest cancer in the United States, recent trends have shown that the number of cases has been decreasing over the past few years, especially amongst those 55 and up. Another piece of good news is that with the increase in the number of screening options, many cases of colorectal cancer have been caught early, and when caught early, these cases have a 90% survival rate. Talk to your doctor today about what steps you can take to prevent colorectal cancer, along with any questions you might have about prevention methods and treatment options.

To learn more about Medicare Advantage plans, visit or call 1 (800) 831-9218 (TTY 711).

*The benefits mentioned are a part of a special supplemental program for the chronically ill. Not all members qualify.


Page Last Updated On: March 3, 2023
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Tom Cunniffe

Tom Cunniffe

Director of Operations 

Tom Cunniffe comes to eternalHealth with over 20 years of healthcare operations’ experience, having held leadership positions in Call Center, Enrollment, Credentialing, UAT and Reimbursement teams. Tom has worked with Medicaid, Commercial and Medicare lines of business and has consistently built teams who are metrics driven with proven successful outcomes. Making sure our business strives for an efficient, best-in-class customer experience is at the center of Tom’s philosophy.

Tom has a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and a master’s in business administration from University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Tom Lawless

Tom Lawless

Chief Financial Officer

Tom Lawless has spent the past 20+ years building, sustaining, and growing new healthcare-related programs that balance fiscal responsibility & prudence with creativity & innovation, focusing on models of care that are novel, person-centered, and improve the social welfare of those who are served. He is very excited to continue doing so in his role as the Chief Financial Officer of eternalHealth.

Tom comes to eternalHealth from a not-for-profit, member-centric, health insurance cooperative. He helped the company continuously strive toward its dual goals of thriving financially, while keeping members at the very epicenter of its mission and service model. While there, Tom also spearheaded the creation of a brand new private, charitable foundation, which will be meaningfully giving back to those in need in the surrounding communities for years to come. Previously, Tom worked in the finance department of a successful hospice that provided high-quality care to persons experiencing their unique and poignant end-of-life journeys, assuring that the appropriate financing was always available. Tom’s career began as a civil servant in the Wisconsin Medicaid program, where he helped to create a program that expanded the institutional entitlement to care into home and community-based settings. Starting with only a blueprint in hand, the program now serves more than 57,000 frail elders and disabled adults and is considered a national model. Growing into a senior leadership role, Tom was a key architect of an innovative financing model, through which the public and private sectors successfully collaborated to better the lives of persons in great need.

Tom holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago, with additional graduate work in economics completed at the University Wisconsin-Madison.

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