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Colorectal Cancer Month: There's an Easy Way to Get Screened

Polyps are an indication of higher risk for colorectal cancer. (Blausen Medical Communications, Inc./Wikimedia Commons)
Polyps are an indication of higher risk for colorectal cancer. (Blausen Medical Communications, Inc./Wikimedia Commons)
March 8, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and health professionals are stressing that people should get screened. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Doctors suggest that people age 50 and older be screened, but nearly one-third of Americans who should get those screenings aren't up to date.

There are two options: One is a colonoscopy every 10 years. The other is known as a FIT test, taken at home once a year. Specialists analyze tests for blood in the stool, a possible sign of the cancer. According to Jen Coury, a quality improvement specialist for CareOregon, many people prefer the FIT test.

"The great thing about colorectal cancer screening is that it actually saves lives," Coury said. "Survival is 93 percent if you catch colon cancer in Stage I and it's 8 percent if you catch it in Stage IV."

People with a family history of colorectal cancer should talk to their doctors, because they are at higher risk of the disease. African-Americans, Native Americans and Alaska Natives also are at higher risk and should begin screenings at age 45.

Coury said CareOregon provides help to clinics in order to increase their screening rates.

"One of the things we're doing is mailing FIT tests to people who are overdue for screening; then, they do the test at home and send it back to their own doctor," she explained. "We've gotten such a great response just from mailing people FIT tests. Thirty percent of the people we've mailed FIT tests to completed the screening and returned it to their doctor."

Doctors say people can lower their risk of colorectal cancer by staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and losing weight. Taking a daily low-dose aspirin has been shown to reduce the formation of polyps, an indicator of this cancer, but Coury said folks should consult with their doctor about this approach.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR