Silence About This Cancer Can Kill
Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in both New Mexico and the United States.
It’s a subject few people want to discuss — and that’s a problem because this a killer that thrives on silence. That’s why March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month — because silence is not an option.
Medical experts say what you could easily guess for yourself: the frequency of deaths from this type of cancer is in many ways caused by our lack of communication about the subject. We don’t want to think about what’s going on “down there”, and we sure don’t want to talk about it. The truth is routine screening often finds precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening can also reduce colorectal cancer deaths by detecting cancer at an early, more treatable stage.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include—
- Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement).
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
- Losing weight and you don’t know why.
- These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.
Colorectal cancer screening is recommended for most men and women ages 50 through 75. If you’re at higher risk based on family history or medical conditions, your doctor may suggest you start screening at a younger age.
There are three common screening tests for colorectal cancer. Ask your doctor which one is best for you:
- High-sensitivity Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): You do this test at home and send stool sample(s) to a doctor’s office or lab. If results are normal, you’re done until next year. If results are abnormal, it doesn’t mean you have colon cancer, it just means you’ll need a colonoscopy to look inside the rectum and entire colon.
- Colonoscopy: A doctor uses a scope to look for polyps or cancer in the rectum and the entire colon. During colonoscopy, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. If results are normal, repeat in 10 years. If cancer or certain types of polyps are removed, you may need your next colonoscopy sooner.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy plus FOBT: A doctor uses a scope to look for polyps or cancer in the rectum and lower third of the colon. If results are normal, this test is repeated every five years, in combination with a high-sensitivity FOBT after three years. If results are abnormal, you’ll need a colonoscopy to check the entire colon.
For New Mexicans with Medicare or insurance that is subject to the Affordable Care Act, colorectal cancer screening tests are a covered benefit. If you’re 50 or older, talk with your doctor about getting screened. For more information about colorectal cancer screening, visit the Screen for Life website.
We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.
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