According to the Frederick County Health Department, next to lung cancer, colorectal cancer claims the lives of more Maryland residents than any other form of cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates 2,410 new cases will occur in Maryland in 2013.
“It is important to remind the public that early screening is the most valuable form of protection against colorectal cancer,” says Beth Mowrey, Program Administrator for the Preventive Health Program at the Frederick County Health Department. “Despite the benefits of early screening, many people who should be screened for colorectal cancer never get the test(s) that can identify colon cancer in its early and curable stages. The public should know that colorectal cancer rates are going down because of early screening.”
According to Mowrey, primary care physicians can play an important role in reducing the rate of colorectal cancer.
“According to the Maryland Cancer Survey, of the people who reported that their providers recommended colorectal cancer screening, 85% of them got screened,” Mowrey says.
Even if your primary care doctor doesn’t mention it, if you’re over 50 it’s time to speak up and ask if a screening is appropriate. For most of us, the American Cancer Society recommends starting colorectal cancer screenings at age 50. That’s because, according to Fight Colorectal Cancer, of the 150,000 new diagnoses each year nation-wide, less than one in 10 is made before the age of 50.
If you know you’re at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer (for example, if you have a family history of the disease or conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease), you may need to start screening colonoscopies at an earlier age.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor – regardless of your age – if you’re experiencing changes in bowel habits, bleeding, abdominal discomfort, or unexplained fatigue, weight loss or anemia.
For those of us fortunate enough to be symptom-free and in the “average” risk category, there are still steps to take to minimize the risk of developing colorectal cancer:
For more information about colorectal cancer and the availability of colorectal cancer screening for qualifying individuals, please contact Frederick County Health Department at 301-600-3362.