What you need to know about colorectal cancer

Local News

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and second leading cause of cancer death.

Ninety percent of colon cancers are preventable, but one out of three people who should be screened, either aren’t doing it or they’re not up to date on their testing.

At Blair Gastro in Altoona, they take Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month seriously…

“We know that over 95 percent of colon cancers are due to adenomatous polyps and removing those polyps we can prevent the cancer,” says Genetics Clinical Nurse Bonnie Mazzei.

Colonoscopy screens for colorectal cancer, which allows doctors to not only find and remove cancerous polyps, but also to take out other polyps that can become malignant. Colonoscopy is recommended for people at average risk of colon cancer, at age 45, by the American Cancer Society, but at age 50 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Mazzei says other tests for those at average risk of  colorectal cancer can be done at home.

“There are stool tests and then, there are visual tests. One is preventing cancer, one is identifying cancer,” she explains.

She says it’s important to discuss your risk factors with your doctor, to decide which test is better for you.

“It  just depends on what’s applicable to you. We all say, though, the best test done is the one that the patient will actually complete, Mazzei says.

You’ll still need a colonoscopy if the at-home test detects cancer.

Although colorectal cancer is more common in older people, the American Cancer Society says there’s been a sharp increase in those in their 20’s and 30’s, so don’t ignore signs of the disease at any age.

Mazzei says, “Having symptoms such as a change in their bowel habits, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, unexpected weight loss, fatigue, anemia, these should always be evaluated by the physician.”

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