March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Maine CDC encourages Mainers to talk with a health care provider about when and how to be tested for colorectal cancer.
The number of deaths from colorectal cancer and the number of new colorectal cancer cases diagnosed in Maine has been decreasing over the last decade due to screening and improvements in treatment. However, colorectal cancer still remains the third-leading cause of Maine cancer cases and deaths.
While many people know that early detection of cancer is important to a positive long-term outcome, some cancers such as colorectal cancer (also referred to as colon cancer) can be prevented. Colorectal cancer starts as a polyp, which is a small collection of abnormal cells in the colon or rectum. Polyps tend to grow slowly and can take many years before they become cancerous.
The recommended age to start screening is 50. There are three types of tests recommended for colorectal screening: the high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (annually); flexible sigmoidoscopy (every five years); and colonoscopy (every 10 years). For those younger than age 50 who have a family history of colorectal cancer, screening may start earlier.
It is important for people to talk with their health care provider about their risk for all cancers. For additional information and resources: www.screenmaine.org/colon-cancer