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Don't let colorectal cancer keep you out of the saddle. Screening can help you live Outback Strong. ( photo )

Don't let colorectal cancer keep you out of the saddle. Screening can help you live Outback Strong. ( photo)

Here's a topic few people enjoy discussing: colorectal cancer.

Maybe it's the name. I've heard it suggested that rebranding the cancer to replace the word "colorectal" with something less cringe-inducing might make people more willing to talk about it. Because it's something we should be talking about. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It affects men and women nearly equally. Each year, about 140,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and it kills 50,000 people a year.

This is particularly heartbreaking when you learn how preventable it is.

Colorectal cancer develops from polyps in the digestive tract. Often these polyps are initially benign, but if they're unnoticed and left unattended, they can become cancerous over time. These precancerous polyps, and even early stage colorectal cancer, don't always cause symptoms. You may have polyps or cancer and not know it. If, however, the cancer is caught early, it is highly treatable.

This is why testing is so important.

Beginning at age 50, doctors recommend checking for colorectal cancer. One of the most common ways to do this is through a colonoscopy, but this isn't the only option. Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) can check your stool for blood, which can be a symptom of colon cancer. There are pros and cons to all types of tests, and you should discuss the best option for you with your healthcare provider.

To encourage more people to get screened for colon cancer, Lake Health Clinic and Warner Mountain Medical Clinic in Lakeview are partnering with Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO) and Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network (ORPRN) to offer free testing to Oregon Health Plan members in Lake County. This partnership is made possible through a grant through EOCCO.

This month, EOCCO members should watch for a letter introducing them to the project and a pamphlet answering frequently asked questions about colon cancer and the test being used in this project. The Hemosure IFOB test screens for hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colon cancer. You do the noninvasive test at home and return it to your clinic. Providers will test the kits and contact you with results.

Don't miss this opportunity to do a simple, painless test that could help keep you healthy for decades to come. Even if you are not an EOCCO member, if you are over 50, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider about colorectal cancer screening. It could save your life.

To learn more, call Susan Campbell at Lake Health Clinic, (541) 947-2114 ext. 397, or Kim Hendrix at Warner Mountain Medical Clinic, (541) 947-2331.