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Make this happen now: Why screening for colorectal cancer should be on your must-do list
The most important thing to remember about colorectal cancer? Screening works.
"Colorectal cancer screening can detect the disease at an early stage, before it is causing symptoms," says Lake Regional Gastroenterologist Kevin Byrne, D.O. "That's typically when treatments for colorectal cancer are most likely to succeed."
Better yet, screening can even help prevent colorectal cancer. One type of test lets doctors find and remove intestinal growths, called polyps, which can become cancerous.
Thanks in part to screening, colon cancer death rates have been declining, although the disease is still a leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths. That's why everyone needs to be screened, as recommended.
Different colorectal cancer screening tests are available, including:
- Take-home stool tests. You return these to a lab or your doctor's office.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy. This uses a lighted viewing scope to check part of the colon.
- Virtual colonoscopy. This is a computed tomography (CT) scan of the colon and rectum.
- Colonoscopy. This is the most complete test because it checks the entire colon and rectum for polyps and cancer. And if you decide to have one of the other screening tests and you get an abnormal result, you will need a colonoscopy next.
Know the signs
Tell your doctor if you have any of the following signs of colorectal cancer:
- A change in bowel habits — such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool — that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling like you need to have a bowel movement that isn't relieved when you do have one
- Rectal bleeding
- Dark stools or blood in the stool
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Weight loss for no known reason
Get a free colon cancer screening kit
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Lake Regional is offering free colorectal cancer screening kits to the community through March 31. The kits detect hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colon cancer. There is no cost for the kit, lab work or results.
To request a kit, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 573.348.8222. For more information, visit lakeregional.com/screeningkit.
Pick one and get it done
There are pros and cons to each of the screening tests for colorectal cancer. You can discuss these with your primary care provider. Just be sure to follow through.
Source: American Cancer Society