March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Each year, colon cancer claims more than 53,500 lives. An estimated 145,000 men and women will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year alone. Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States.

However, the diagnosis doesn’t have to mean a death sentence. Found in its earliest stages, colon cancer is survived by almost 90 percent of patients.

March is colon cancer awareness month and Dr. Emmanuel Nidhiry with the Commonwealth Cancer Center stresses the importance of early detection.

“With early detection, the five year survival rate is very good,” said Nidhiry. “All polyps (flat or knob-like growths on the lining of the large intestine) don’t necessarily mean cancer…If the polyps are found and removed it can prevents the development of cancer.”

Colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer people experience, yet, no one likes to talk about it.

Most colon cancers begin as benign polyps. Occasionally, the growths produce symptoms such as bleeding, constipation or blood in the stool.

According to Nidhiry, fatigue, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, bloody or black stool and weight loss are symptoms people should also be aware of. If symptoms persist, he suggests starting with your family physician to determine the cause.

The best way to detect the presence of polyps is with a colonoscopy, which is performed in an outpatient setting office.

Nidhiry emphasized the importance of family history. “If there is a family history, testing should begin 10 years before the diagnosis of the youngest family member with the disease and repeat every five years. Without a family history, testing should begin at 50-years-old and repeated every 10 years.”

Nidhiry said take-home colon screening kits are a good way to start in prevention of the disease, but a colonoscopy is the best method to finding and preventing polyp growth. “The colonoscopy prep is the most difficult part of the test, but the procedure itself is very safe with a fairly low complication rate.”

So how is colorectal cancer prevented?  Nidhiry said lifestyle factors play a role in the development of these growths. Obesity is a risk factor for the development of polyps. Smokers, people who consume a high fat diet, and those who consume alcohol are also at higher risk. He suggests being active and eating a high fiber, low fat diet.

Ephraim McDowell Health will be offering free, take-home colon cancer screening kits in March for National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  The screening kits are available for anyone over the age of 50 who has not had a screening in the last 12 months.  The kits may be picked up between March 12 and March 23 at any of the following locations during normal business hours.

In Harrodsburg:

• Ephraim McDowell Dedman Primary Care

• Ephraim McDowell Haggin Primary Care

• Ephraim McDowell James B. Haggin Hospital information desk

• Harrodsburg Family Medical Center

• Mercer County Cooperative Extension Service

There are additional sites in Danville, Lancaster, Liberty, Springfield and Stanford.

To learn more, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.

Leave a Comment