In observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Lake Regional Health System is offering free colorectal cancer screening kits to lake-area residents through March 31.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and the third-leading cause of cancer death. If detected early, however, it is one of the most curable cancers.
Colorectal cancer, which is cancer of the colon or rectum, develops from polyps — small clumps of cells that form on the colon lining. Polyps can be detected and removed before they become cancerous. The free kits offered by Lake Regional — fecal occult blood tests — are used to detect hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of several conditions, including polyps and colorectal cancer.
Fecal occult blood tests require three different specimens, preferably collected on three different days. The free kits come with return envelopes for submitting specimens (postage is required). There is no cost for either the lab work or the results.
Individuals ages 45 and older are at particular risk of developing colorectal cancer. Other risk factors include physical inactivity; obesity; high consumption of red or processed meats; smoking; and moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption. People are also at higher risk if they have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease.
The most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened routinely. The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. People who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75. Common screening options include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and fecal occult blood tests.
Please note the fecal occult blood test checks for colorectal cancer but is never used to diagnose this condition. If your home test detects blood in your stool, call your primary care physician to schedule an appointment for further testing. If blood is not detected, you still are advised to talk with your doctor about your screening needs. If you do not have a primary care provider, you can find one at lakeregional.com/physicians.