National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Sheds Light on Importance of Screenings

     Last year, an estimated 56,000 men and women in the United States died from colorectal cancer (CRC), cancer of the colon or rectum.  But to Lynn McBroom, that statistic is more than just a number, it represents her cousin, Kathi Kirkland, who was diagnosed with colon cancer and later died after the cancer spread throughout her body.

     “After Kathi was diagnosed, several of our family members went to have a colonoscopy to make sure they were clear of the disease, and they were. My risk didn’t increase because we were not immediate family members; however, when I was due for a colonoscopy, I said, ‘Sure, let’s do it,’” said McBroom, adding that the prep for the test is the worst part.  “Once I got to OCH for the procedure, it was easy.  The nurses and techs were so professional and comforting, which minimized my nervousness and helped me put it in perspective.  The anticipation is definitely worse than the actual event!”

During the month of March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, the topic is at the forefront of many discussions, with healthcare providers hoping education about the disease will prompt others to get screened.  At a recent lunch-and-learn at OCH Regional Medical Center led by John Phillips, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.G., with Digestive Health Specialists, McBroom and other participants learned just how important it is to receive regular screenings.

“Of the 56,000 people who died of CRC in 2013, screening could have saved over half of them,” stated Dr. Phillips.  “It’s such a preventable cancer.  A simple screening colonoscopy prevents CRC by removing precancerous colon polyps, but unfortunately, only about half of the population will receive the screening as directed by national guidelines,” he added.

“Seeing everything Kathi went through before losing her life, I know how important it is to catch the cancer at the earliest stage. I think if people realized the amount of pain and suffering they could avoid by having a colonoscopy, they would get over the embarrassment or anxiety of having one and just do it,” stated McBroom.

Sonny and Patsy Stuart were also among those who came to learn about colon cancer screenings and guidelines. “This seminar gave me a better understanding of the tests that are available and how they actually work,” said Sonny Stuart.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more from an expert about the different screenings and how many lives these screenings can save.  It impressed me, and it makes me more aware of how necessary regular screenings are,” said Patsy Stewart.

A recent report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) shows that colon cancer in older adults has decreased by 30% in the last decade. Despite that encouraging statistic, colorectal cancer is still predicted to be the third most common and third most deadly cancer in the U.S. in 2014, with an estimated 137,000 new cases and 50,000 deaths.

“Even though those numbers have decreased, far too many cases of colorectal cancer are being missed. We could significantly impact the number of colorectal cancer patients if more people received screenings,” stated Dr. Phillips.

According to the ACS, the state of Mississippi ranks number 50 in colorectal cancer screening prevalence among adults aged 50 years and older.  Current guidelines recommend a screening at 50 years in an average-risk person who has no family history of the disease and a screening at 45 years for African Americans.  Risk factors for CRC are higher for people who are African American, overweight or obese, aren’t physically active, drink alcohol in excess, eat a lot of red or processed meat, or have a family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps. People with personal histories of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) and people with family histories of inherited colorectal cancer or inherited colorectal problems are also at a higher risk for developing the disease.

Dr. Phillips encouraged the group to also know the warning signs of CRC which include blood in or on the stool (bowel movement), stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away, and/or unexplained weight loss.

Digestive Health Specialists, P.A. is located at 300 Hospital Road in Starkville.  For an appointment, call 662-324-7484 or visit www.dhsgi.net.

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