March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, and close to 52,000 people die every year. National and New York State data show that 9 out of 10 of new colorectal cancer cases happen in adults aged 45 and older. The US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society recommend that colorectal cancer screenings begin at age 45. People at higher risk may need to begin screening before age 45.
All people 45 and older should be screened for colon cancer. The FIT (fecal immunochemical test) Kit is an at-home stool testing kit which looks for blood in a person’s stool. A colonoscopy is a test which allows your doctor to view the inside of the entire colon to find and remove polyps in the colon or rectum. Other testing methods are available, talk to your doctor to determine which test is right for you and how often you should be screened.
Early detection saves lives. Colorectal cancer usually starts from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, which can develop into cancer over time. Sometimes polyps will bleed and a person may notice blood in their stool. Other symptoms of colorectal cancer may include abdominal pain or bloating that doesn’t go away or unexplained weight loss. But, it is important to remember that colorectal cancer does not always cause symptoms at first. This is why having screening tests for colorectal cancer on a regular basis is important to find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. Colorectal cancer can be PREVENTED with regular screening and the removal of pre-cancerous polyps in the colon and/or rectum.
Free colorectal cancer screening tests are available. The Onondaga County Cancer Services Program (CSP) offers free tests for people age 45 and older who do not have health insurance. Take home fecal tests, such as FIT Kit are an easy and effective way to get screened. If the FIT test comes back abnormal, follow-up with a colonoscopy will be scheduled. Any follow-up procedures, including colonoscopies, will be covered at no cost to the patient. If diagnosed with colorectal cancer, CSP staff will assist with the Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program (MCTP) application process. Services are available at many healthcare provider sites throughout the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. Call 315-435-3653 or visit the CSP website at ongov.net/health/cancerscreening.html to register for your free screening test.
Remember, if you are over 45 years old and do NOT have health insurance, call 315-435-3653 to see if you qualify for free colorectal cancer screening. Early detection of colorectal cancer saves lives. Take care of yourself and schedule your appointment today!