March Is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

ron-riosBy Ronald G. Rios

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, and I encourage all residents to educate themselves and their families about colorectal cancer – the third most common cancer in men and women.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that in 2005, 72,007 men and 69,398 women were diagnosed with colorectal cancer; and 26,781 men and 27,259 women died.

Men and women of all racial and ethnic groups are affected by this disease, which almost always develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum.

Colorectal cancer first develops with few, if any, symptoms. If there are symptoms they may include blood in or on the stool; a change in bowel habits; stools that are narrower than usual; unexplained stomach discomfort; frequent gas, or indigestion; unexplained weight loss; and chronic fatigue. These symptoms may or may not be from colorectal cancer.

I urge all who experience any or all of these symptoms to call your doctor, follow their orders and make follow-up visits.

While increasing physical activity, eating fruits and vegetables, limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding tobacco will reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, early detection is the best protection.

Screening tests are needed to locate precancerous polyps so they can be removed.

It is recommended that men and women age 50 and over are screened. Individuals under the age of 50 may be screened if they are considered high-risk due to a personal or family history. Speak with your doctor about when you should begin screening and how often you should be tested.

If you don’t have health insurance, have limited health insurance or a limited income, you may qualify for a FREE colorectal cancer screening test. You can find out if you are eligible by calling the Middlesex County Public Health Department Cancer Education and Early Detection Program at 732-745-3127 (English) or 732-745-3107 (en Español).

Make preventative screenings part of your health routine. Early detection can save lives.

For additional information about colorectal cancer please visit the following web sites:

Rios is the Middlesex County Freeholder Chairperson, Committee of Public Health and Education.

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