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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month promotes everyday awareness

Diseases and IllnessesColon CancerAmerican Cancer SocietyU.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionSkin Cancer

March is observed across the nation as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Many survivors, patients, caregivers and others whose lives have been affected by colorectal cancer come together to generate awareness of the importance of getting screened and also encouraging loved ones to get screened.

According to the American Cancer Society, excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States. In 2013, the American Cancer Society estimates 102,480 new cases of colon cancer and 40,340 new cases of rectal cancer will be reported. Colorectal cancer also is the second leading cause of cancer death among both genders, combined, and is expected to cause about 50,830 deaths during 2013.

Colorectal cancer (also referred to as colon cancer) almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum and is almost always preventable through screening tests. These screening tests can find the polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

While March is used to draw attention to this disease, the Harford County Health Department wants the public to be aware of this cancer all year long.

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may include blood in or on your stool; stomach pain, aches or cramps that don't go away; thinning or "penciling" of stool; and unexplained weight loss.

Screening is advised for all Harford County residents 50 years of age or older, or younger for those who have a family history. Private health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare benefits can be used to obtain colorectal cancer screening. The Harford County Health Department's Colon Cancer Screening Program offers no-cost colonoscopies for those who are uninsured, underinsured and are of low income. Interested individuals can call 410-612-1780 to see if they qualify.

Harford County Health Officer Susan Kelly reminds the public that excellent informational resources are available. "The CDC Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign launched in 1999 by then-U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., emphasizes several key messages. Among them, colorectal cancer is an 'equal-opportunity disease' affecting all races, ethnicities and both genders, and for which there may be no symptoms at all."

For more information about colorectal cancer, screening options or to obtain information about health department services, visit the Harford County Health Department website, http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com, or call 410-612-1780.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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