Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

03/12/2015

(Bangor, Maine) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of adults age 50 and older have not been screened for colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. During the month of March, Eastern Maine Medical Center is recognizing Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month by raising awareness about screening and the fact that in many cases, this common type of cancer is preventable.

“About six out of every ten deaths from the disease can be avoided,” says Scott Stern, DO, a gastroenterologist at EMMC Gastroenterology Center of Maine. “That’s why screening is so essential, and why it’s important for anyone who is over the age of 50 to talk with their primary care provider about it.”

Dr. Stern adds that people who have a family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps may want to talk to a healthcare provider about being screened at an earlier age.

There are several different screening options available. One of the most common is colonoscopy, in which a physician uses a thin, flexible tube to check for small growths called polyps in the colon. If precancerous polyps are found, they can be removed during the screening. Colonoscopies are typically not painful, although some patients may find the preparation, which involves taking medicine to clean out the colon, to be a little uncomfortable.

Other types of screening include a stool test and a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which uses a tube to examine the lower third of the colon. The different screening options vary in price, and they each have their own benefits and risks. Healthcare providers look at patients’ individual needs and recommend the best screening or combination of screenings for each situation.

Some forms of colorectal cancer may require surgery, chemotherapy, or other medical treatments. According to Dr. Stern, that’s the reason why catching the disease early is so important.

“Getting screened can allow us to find polyps before they become cancerous,” he says. “The most important thing to remember is to talk to your healthcare provider about your screening options – it could save your life.”