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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Regular screenings can save lives

Colorectal cancer screening – testing to look for cancer before symptoms start – can help save lives. Regular screening can find colorectal cancer early when it can be easier to treat. There are several different screening options for colorectal cancer. No matter which one you choose, the important thing is to be tested.

If you have delayed your screening appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, talk to your doctor about the steps you can take to safely resume these important tests.

“If you’re 45 or older, it’s important to get screened for colorectal cancer regularly,” said ARH General Surgeon William Gaunt, MD. “When colorectal cancer is caught early, treatment can be most effective.”

According to the American Cancer Society, there are several screening test options. Talk with your healthcare provider to determine which option is right for you.

Colonoscopy: an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. (every 10 years)
High-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT): Stool specimens are collected by patients in their home. (every year)

Sigmoidoscopy: a diagnostic test to check the lower part of your colon or large intestine (the sigmoid colon). This part of your colon is close to your rectum and anus. (every 10 years, with FOBT or FIT every three years)
Sigmoidoscopy alone (every 5 years).

Stool DNA test (FIT-DNA): a noninvasive laboratory test that identifies DNA changes in the cells of a stool sample. The stool DNA test is a new method to screen for colon cancer. (every one or three years)

“Though researchers are not sure what causes colorectal cancer, certain factors like smoking, excess weight, and alcoholic drinks may affect your risk,” stated Gaunt. “Also keep in mind if a parent, grandparent, or other close relative has had colorectal cancer, your risk increases significantly.”

Overall, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is by having regular colorectal cancer screening tests beginning at age 45.

And no matter your age, talk to your doctor about your family medical history. People at higher risk for colorectal cancer because of family history or certain health conditions might need to start screening earlier than age 45 or be screened more often.

Talk to your healthcare provider about screening options and take charge of your health. To find an ARH physician, go to www.arh.org or call your local ARH hospital.

Facts about Colorectal Cancer
• Risk for colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people aged 45 and older.

• Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. If you do have symptoms, they may include—

• Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement).

• Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.

• Losing weight and you don’t know why.

These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.

Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at increased risk, talk to your doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for you, and how often to get tested.

ARH is a not-for-profit health system operating 13 hospitals in Barbourville, Hazard, Harlan, Hyden, Martin, McDowell, Middlesboro, Prestonsburg, West Liberty, Whitesburg and South Williamson in Kentucky, and Beckley and Hinton in West Virginia, as well as multi-specialty physician practices, home health agencies, home medical equipment stores and retail pharmacies. ARH employs more than 6,000 people with an annual payroll and benefits of $330 million generated into our local economies. ARH also has a network of more than 600 active and courtesy medical staff members. ARH is the largest provider of care and single largest employer in southeastern Kentucky and the third-largest private employer in southern West Virginia.

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