Friday, March 06, 2009

March is colorectal cancer awareness month

By Carolyn Dillman RN, BSN, PHN

Colorectal cancer is any cancer affecting the colon and/or rectum. It is the third most common cancer in the United States.
Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer may include: changes in bowel patterns, blood in stool or dark stools, abdominal pain and bloating, constipation, weight loss, and loss of appetite. Screening for colorectal cancer generally starts at 50. It may start earlier if you have family history.
There are several tests used for screening this type of cancer, the first is called a colonoscopy. This is a test which can detect polyps, which can be cancerous. Polyps can easily be removed during a colonsocopy. Barium enemas are used in conjunction with X-Rays. They allow doctors to better visualize the colon and can also detect blockages in the colon. The last test is a fecal occult blood test. This test can check for blood in stool samples.
If you have any questions about colorectal cancer screening and/or signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer ask your primary care provider. Remember....early detection saves lives.