Colorectal cancer screening urged

3/7/2014, 6 a.m.

Colorectal cancer screening can mean the difference between life and death, yet one in three Georgians between 50 and 75 is not being screened.

The Georgia Department of Public Health wants to change that. As the nation observes March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the DPH is urging Georgians 50 and older to get screened. Colon cancer is highly treatable if detected early. It is one of the most common cancers and most common causes of death from cancer in Georgia.

Anyone with a family history or other high risk factors may need to be tested earlier.

Men and women are both at risk for colorectal cancer, but African-American and Asian men in Georgia are at a higher risk.

Brenda Fitzgerald

Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Georgia’s public health commissioner, said the best test for colon cancer is the one you are willing to have done.

“Screening for colorectal cancer may keep you, or a loved one, from dying from a cancer that is preventable,” she said in March 3 statement.

There are several screening tests for colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy can detect cancer early and it can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. From the time the first abnormal cells start to grow into polyps, it usually takes about 10 to 15 years for them to develop into cancer.

If the thought of a colonoscopy is frightening, an FOBT/FIT is a simple at-home test that can detect cancer early by identifying blood in the stool, a possible sign of cancer. Patients should speak to their health care provider about the best colorectal cancer test for them, but studies show that people who are able to choose the test they prefer are more likely to get the test done.

Everyone over the age of 50 should be screened for colorectal cancer – it is the best protection against colon cancer. You also can lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer by managing the risk factors that you can control, like diet and physical activity.

The DPH offers this advice:

  • Increase the intensity and amount of physical activity.
  • Limit intake of red and processed meats.
  • Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.
  • Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection.
  • Avoid excess alcohol.

Every 10 minutes, someone in this country dies from colorectal cancer, a cancer that can be prevented.

For more information about colorectal cancer and screening, talk to your doctor or health care provider or visit dph.georgia.gov/learn-more-about-colorectal-cancer.