In recognition of national Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which takes place in March, Cass Regional Medical Center is distributing free test kits that detect the presence of occult (hidden) blood in feces.
While blood in the stool is not always an indication of cancer, it is one of the symptoms that doctors consider in diagnosing colorectal cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most curable, according to the hospital.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer killer in the United States, but it can be prevented in many cases through proper screening. All adults over the age of 50 are at risk of developing the disease, but anyone of any age can get colorectal cancer. Early stages of colorectal cancer do not usually produce symptoms, according to doctors.
“All adults need to have a regular screening colonoscopy at age 50, or earlier if there is a personal or family history of colorectal cancer and polyps,” said Aaron Travis, M.D., a specialist in internal medicine. “However, everyone, regardless of age, needs to be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer and the steps they can take to reduce their risk of the disease,” he he said.
He said symptoms of colorectal cancer may include a change in bowel habits, visible blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation or a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, stools that are narrower than usual, persistent abdominal discomfort (frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or cramps), unexplained weight loss, fatigue or anemia, and vomiting.
“If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see your health care provider right away,” Travis said.
The risk of developing colorectal cancer can be reduced by getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a diet high in fiber with emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains. Consumption of red meat and processed meats (such as smoked and cured meats), as well as alcohol, should be limited. Smoking is also a known risk factor, he said.
“It’s important to remember that there’s really nothing to be embarrassed about when screening for colorectal cancer,” said Travis. “Too often, patients are reluctant to see their doctor when they have symptoms, but the fact is, colorectal cancer is very treatable when it is detected early. When it is diagnosed in the later stages, treatment is much more involved and the patient’s quality of life is significantly impacted. Regular screening and early detection are critical,” he said.
From Monday, March 5, through Friday, March 23, Cass Regional Medical Center will distribute free fecal occult blood test kits at the following sites:
• Cass Regional Medical Center, at the Specialists Clinic reception desk.
• Archie Medical Clinic, 709 E. Pine Street, Archie.
• Drexel Medical Clinic, 201 E. Main St., Drexel.
• Garden City Medical Clinic, 101 Old Hwy 7, Garden City.
• Kingsville Medical Clinic, 305 E. Pacific St., Kingsville.
• Harrisonville Family Medicine, 2820 E. Rock Haven Rd., Suite 100, Harrisonville.
• Harrisonville Medical Clinic, 2820 E Rock Haven Rd., Suite 210, Harrisonville.
• Peculiar Medical Clinic, 300 S. Main St., Peculiar.
• Pleasant Hill Medical Clinic, 1601 N. Hwy 7, Pleasant Hill.
Using materials provided in the kit, samples are collected at home, and then mailed to Cass Regional for analysis. Patients will be notified of their test results by mail. For more information, call 816-380-5159.