TRUMBULL COUNTY, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week and Millions of Americans live with these incurable diseases.

Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis are collectively grouped under the term inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. And Crohn’s and colitis awareness week is observed to support and encourage those who are diagnosed with the disease.

These are chronic inflammatory diseases of the GI tract. Both diseases have a lot of overlapping features but the main difference is where they can affect in the body.

Crohn’s disease can affect anywhere from the mouth to the anus, where as colitis is mainly in the large intestine or colon. IBD is believed to affect about three million Americans and affects men and women fairly equally.

The diseases are more predominant in adolescents and young adults.

“Like most diseases, the earlier we find out or we diagnose it, the better we have with regards to treatment and overall outcomes,” said Dr. Amy Calderon, a gastroenterologist at the Trumbull Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Calderon says early detection is key because a lot of the signs overlap with other serious diseases like colon cancer.

Unfortunately there is currently no known cure for Crohn’s or colitis but there are treatment options to make symptoms more manageable.

Crohn’s and colitis awareness week runs through wednesday. It serves to address the stigma around a condition that affects so many people.

“It’s really important for people to listen to their bodies and seek care early. Start off just by going to your primary care doctor and from there they’ll generally maybe do some lab work but ultimately will wind up referring you to a gastroenterologist who will talk to you about your symptoms,” said Dr. Calderon.

There’s an increased risk of colon cancer in the long term in people who have IBD. Once you are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis, you’ll know that you need to be screened more often because your risk of colon cancer is so much higher than the average population.