In observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Lake Regional Health System is offering free fecal occult blood test kits throughout March. The kits are used to detect hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of several conditions, including colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum and occurs more often in men than women. It develops from polyps — small clumps of cells that form on the colon lining — which can be detected and removed before they become cancerous.
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. The ACS estimates more than 143,000 men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013, and more than 51,000 individuals will die from the disease. If detected early, however, it is one of the most curable cancers.
Individuals ages 50 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, as well as a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease and inherited colorectal cancer.
To reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer, physicians recommend regular physical activity and exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, consuming foods high in fiber and calcium, limiting red meat and avoiding processed meats. Smoking cessation and limited consumption of alcohol also are advised.
Screenings are recommended for most people beginning at age 50 or when symptoms appear, including changes in bowel movements, rectal cramping and/or bleeding, dark patches of blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort or bloating, unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite and/or weight loss or pelvic pain. However, those at greater risk may need to begin screenings at an earlier age. Common screening options include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy and fecal occult blood tests.
To request your free test kit, visit lakeregional.com/screeningkit or call Mitch Shields at 573-348-8236.
If you do not have a primary care provider, visit lakeregional.com/physicians, or call Lake Regional Health System’s Physician Referral Line at 573-348-8385.