March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Cancer of the colon or rectum is also called colorectal cancer. The colon and rectum are parts of the large intestine.
Colorectal cancer symptoms often appear only after the cancer has grown or spread, so it is best to be screened before you have any symptoms. Most people who are 50 to 75 years old should be tested regularly for colon cancer. If you have family history of colorectal cancer or any other risk factors, your health care provider may want you to start screening at a younger age.
The screening test for colorectal cancer is called a colonoscopy. This test allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine. The preparation for the test takes more time than the test itself. A colonoscopy is done while you are sedated (asleep).
A colonoscopy is the best way to find colorectal cancer in the early stages when it might be easier to treat. Screening can even find growths called polyps and remove them before they become cancer. In many cases, if the outcome is good, you may not need to repeat the test for 5 to 10 years.
If you live in Carroll County, the Carroll County Health Department’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Program can help you get a colonoscopy if you are uninsured or under-insured. For more information, visit our website at cchd.maryland.gov and go to colorectal cancer screening program in health services or call 410-876-4429 or 410-876-4966.
While a colonoscopy can detect cancer early, you should also be aware of symptoms that might signal colon cancer:
- Change in bowel habits (new onset of diarrhea or constipation);
- Blood in the stool (may be dark tarry looking or red);
- Narrow stool;
- Abdominal discomfort (gas, bloating, fullness, cramps);
- Unexplained weight loss.
These symptoms could indicate other illnesses too, so be sure to mention any changes to your doctor.
For more information please call the Health Department at 410-876-4429.