It’s time to get screened

Welcome to Colorectal Cancer Screening Awareness Month!

If you winced reading that, you’re not alone. While colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, it’s not a disease most people feel comfortable discussing. Everybody poops — but we don’t talk about it in polite company.

Organizations across the nation are working to change that mindset. One of the most vocal is the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which aims to raise awareness of this deadly cancer; support the people who have been diagnosed with it, as well as their families and caregivers; and raise money to fund research that will make colorectal cancer even less deadly in the future.

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s theme during this year’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Awareness month is Don’t Assume. It has three main messages:

1. Don’t assume you’re too young for colorectal cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. The American Cancer Society recently recommended beginning regular screenings starting at age 45. However, people with an increased or high risk of colorectal cancer may need to start getting screened earlier or get specific tests. Talk to your primary care provider about when you should start getting screened.

Many people assume “screening” is synonymous with “colonoscopy.” The procedure — or what they’ve heard about the preparation process — is enough to make some people put off screening. While colonoscopies do offer primary care providers the best look at your colon, the procedure isn’t the only way to detect cancer. Lake Health Clinic, Warner Mountain Medical Clinic, and La Pine Community Health Center-Christmas Valley all offer fecal immunochemical tests (FITs) as an alternative screening approach.

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FITs are not appropriate for every screening. Talk to your healthcare provider about what test is best for you.

2. Don’t assume you’re alone.

“Cancer” is a scary word, and for many people, getting that diagnosis triggers depression. Depression, in turn, is isolating. If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you’re not alone. Talk to your family members and friends or allow them to be with you without talking. Here are a few more resources:

  • A cancer support group meets from 3 to 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the Lake County Library’s main branch, 26 South G St., Lakeview.

  • The Colorectal Cancer Alliance offers support for individuals, family members, and caregivers dealing with colorectal cancer and its aftermath.

  • The American Cancer Society has information about the disease and treatment. It also can direct you to an online support group.

3. Don’t assume we can’t beat colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. It’s also one of the most treatable. About 90 percent of people whose colorectal cancer was found early and treated were still alive five years later. That success rate depends on early detection, which requires regular screening.

Screening rates tend to be lower in rural areas than in cities. Healthy People 2020 found that 63 percent of people in urban areas were being screened for colorectal cancer, compared to 58 percent of people in rural communities. In Lake County in 2018, about 41 percent of Oregon Health Plan members between the ages of 50 and 75 were screened for colorectal cancer.

You can help change these statistics. Ask your primary care provider if you’re due for screening this year.

Learn more

Call your primary care provider to learn more about colorectal cancer screening.

Lake Health Clinic: (541) 947-3366

La Pine Community Health Center-Christmas Valley: (541) 536-3435

Warner Mountain Medical Clinic: (541) 947-2331