HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Public Health is joining public health officials across the country by recognizing March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and encouraging people to begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50. Then, continue getting screened at regular intervals.
People with a family history or certain medical conditions may need to start screening even earlier.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Connecticut. Health officials project that more than 1,600 Connecticut residents will be diagnosed this year, and more than 400 will die from the disease.
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include being over the age of 50, a family history of colorectal cancer, a high fat diet, heavy use of alcohol, obesity, and smoking.
“If you’re 50 or older or have a family history, getting a colorectal cancer screening test could save your life,” said DPH Commissioner Jewel Mullen, MD. “Screening tests help find polyps that may become cancer. These polyps can be removed before turning into cancer, thus preventing the disease. Screening also can find this cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective.”
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening for men and women aged 50–75 using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy. Dr Mullen says the decision to be screened after age 75 should be made on an individual basis. If you are older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
Health officials said that a declining rate of colorectal cancer death over the years has been attributed to an increase in colorectal cancer screening. However, a quarter of Connecticut residents over the age of 50 have never been screened for this disease.
African American men have the highest rate of dying from colorectal cancer. Lack of access to screening and quality treatment may contribute to this disparity.
No-cost colorectal cancer screenings are available to qualifying individuals at facilities throughout the state. For more information on colorectal cancer and screenings, visit www.ct.gov/dph/colorectal or call 860-509-7804.