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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!

When it Comes to Colorectal Cancer, Knowledge is Power!

In the ongoing fight against cancer, early detection and an accurate diagnosis are critical to proper treatment and successful outcomes. This essential knowledge can come from one or more of four key sources.

Source One: An Annual Wellness Exam

Seeing your primary care provider is perhaps the most important step you can take in detecting early signs of possible cancer. An annual wellness exam increases the likelihood of detecting cancer early, when lifesaving treatments are much more successful. Your primary care provider is also often in the best position to recommend additional tests or screenings.

What can you do? Schedule and keep those annual wellness appointments and be sure to talk openly and honestly with your provider. Don’t hold back. Ask questions about your health concerns, no matter how small they may seem.

Source Two: Regular Screenings

Regular cancer screenings are proven to be the best way to detect cancer early.

For Colorectal Cancer:

Colorectal cancer will claim the most lives of people under age 50. Therefore, for every person with average risk, colorectal screening should begin at age 45 and continue every 10 years. For those with above average risk, testing can begin earlier and take place more often. A colonoscopy is the primary screening for colorectal cancer. The entire colon can be closely inspected during the procedure, and polyps can be removed before they become cancerous.

Source Three: Diagnostics and Lab Testing

If signs of possible cancer are discovered during a wellness exam or a screening, your provider will likely recommend additional testing to clarify or confirm whether or not cancer exists. Depending on the situation, Ultrasound, MRI and CT Scans are all non-invasive procedures that physicians can utilize to look more closely for cancer, determine how far it has spread, or see if a treatment is working.

As part of an annual wellness exam, samples of blood, urine, tissue and other fluids may be taken and tested to determine if there are any signs of cancer.

What can you do? Trust your provider to know what steps should be taken in order to gain a clear and accurate diagnosis. Advocate for yourself. Ask good questions and understand the pros and cons of further testing. The more you know, the more effective a treatment plan will be.

Source Four: Biopsies and Surgery

In certain situations, a biopsy or minor surgical procedure will be recommended when a screening or imaging test does not yield a definitive diagnosis. During a biopsy, body tissue or a sample of cells is removed and then analyzed in a lab. In addition to determining if the cells are cancerous, a biopsy can provide valuable information about the cancer and how aggressive it is.

What can you do? Remain positive! You know your body better than anyone else. Trust your instincts. Stay informed and don’t hesitate to contact your primary care provider or our hospital with any health concern you may have.

Sources: American Cancer Society, National Breast Cancer Foundation,, Lung Cancer Foundation, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Mayo Clinic, WebMD.

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