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State urges residents to know the facts and get screened for colorectal cancer

March 4th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which is part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about colorectal cancer – the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and Maryland. The American Cancer Society estimates 2,390 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed and 850 deaths will occur in Maryland in 2016 due to the disease. 

“Regular screening is the most valuable form of protection against colorectal cancer, and efforts to increase screening rates have led to a decline in colorectal cancer rates in Maryland,” says Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Dr. Howard Haft, Deputy Secretary of Public Health. “Despite the benefits of screening, many people who should be screened for colorectal cancer never get any of the screening tests that could find precancerous growths or that could detect colorectal cancer in its early stages, when treatment would be most effective.” 

One method of screening is colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, the doctor can find and remove growths called polyps from the large intestine. As some types of polyps can turn into cancer over time, early detection and removal of these polyps can help prevent colorectal cancer from developing. Other screening tests include sigmoidoscopy, fecal immunochemical test (FIT), and guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT). Screening is generally recommended for patients 50 or older – however some people might need to be screened before age 50. The department encourages individuals 50 and older, as well as those younger than 50 who have family or personal history of colorectal cancer, to speak with their doctor about when to be screened and which method is recommended. 

The department also administers a program that provides free colorectal cancer screening to eligible, low-income Marylanders. The goals of this program are to reduce the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer in Maryland and to decrease disparities among underserved populations.

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