Lexington, Ky. (February 14, 2019) – Health screenings are important year-round to help detect diseases like colon cancer early on. As the month of March approaches, CHI Saint Joseph Health is helping to raise awareness about the prevalence of colon cancer in Kentucky, and the importance of scheduling a screening, in recognition of Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
Kentucky leads the nation in colon cancer rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States, colon cancer is the third most common cancer found in men and women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
“We have a long way to go to bring down the high rates of colon cancer in Kentucky, but we are hopeful that community members will join us as we work together to help raise awareness about the impact colon cancer has on our loved ones,” said Kathleen Martin, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Gastroenterology. “We are encouraging those in our community to learn more about their risk for colon cancer and the importance of colonoscopies.”
Colon cancer is 90 percent treatable if found early through screening. Those 50 and older should receive regular screening tests for colon cancer; some groups, like the American Cancer Society, recommend screening starting at age 45. You may need to be tested at an earlier age if you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, or an inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Colonoscopies are the most common way to detect and prevent colon cancer, and involves the use of a thin, flexible tube to examine part of the colon. The procedure typically takes 20 to 30 minutes; however, if polyps are found, the procedure could take longer. The procedure is performed under mild anesthesia. This procedure is recommended every 10 years for people at average risk for the disease.
Additional screening options, including at-home tests, are available. With stool blood tests and stool DNA tests, patients collect a stool sample at home and mail it to a lab for testing. If blood is found in the stool, or certain gene changes that could be a sign of cancer or polyps, a colonoscopy may be necessary. Stool tests are recommended every year, while stool DNA tests are recommended every three years.
“Don’t let fear or embarrassment prevent you from being screened for this disease,” said Dr. Martin. “This cancer is very preventable if found early, and these screenings could help save your life.”
Symptoms of colon cancer include rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel habits, unexplained abdominal pain or chronic fatigue, but Dr. Martin stresses the importance of not waiting for symptoms to appear before getting checked. Studies show certain lifestyle changes may also decrease your risk for colon cancer, including eating more fruits and vegetables daily, drinking less alcohol, eating fewer fatty foods, getting regular exercise, and not smoking or chewing tobacco.
To learn more about colon cancer screenings, visit www.chisaintjosephhealth.org/lexington-colorectal-cancer-screening. To contact a primary care provider about an appointment, call 859.313.2255.
About CHI Saint Joseph Health
CHI Saint Joseph Health, part of Catholic Health Initiatives, is one of the largest and most comprehensive health systems in the Commonwealth of Kentucky with 135 locations in 20 counties, including hospitals, physician groups, clinics, primary care centers, specialty institutes and home health agencies. In total, the health system serves patients in 35 counties statewide. CHI Saint Joseph Health is dedicated to building healthier communities by elevating patient care through an integrated physical and behavioral health delivery system. CHI Saint Joseph Health embodies a strong mission and faith-based heritage and works through local partnerships to expand access to care in the communities it serves.
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