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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

This month, March, is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Even though colorectal cancer is a highly treatable, preventable, and survivable disease, it is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women in the United States. Within our state of Louisiana, the rates of cancer and rates of death are even higher than the national average.

Why are the numbers in Louisiana so high? It is estimated that 40% of at-risk individuals have never been screened. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, within the Louisiana Medicaid program, just 38.7% of recipients ages 50 to 75 have been screened for colorectal cancer Screening is the best way to protect yourself from colorectal cancer. Screening is recommended for everyone aged 45-72. People who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75. For people ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on a person’s preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history. After age 85, individuals should no longer get colorectal cancer screening.

There are different factors that impact your risk for developing colorectal cancer. Individuals who have no personal or family history of colorectal cancer, no history of inflammatory bowel disease, a confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, or a personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer are considered “average risk” for the development of colorectal cancer. Conversely, individuals with personal or family histories of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel syndrome, or radiation treatment to the abdomen or pelvic area are considered to be at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer. Individuals in this risk group are recommended to start cancer screenings earlier than 45 years old. Additionally, these individuals may need to be screened more regularly and/or get additional tests.

Access Health Louisiana’s Nurse Practitioner at our St. Bernard Community Health Center, Cynthia Bartholomae, comments that “the most important thing I can say about the prevention of colon cancer is to communicate with your health care provider. Let them know if you have a mom, dad, brother, or sister who has been diagnosed with colon cancer. The age of diagnosis is also very important. This may mean you are at high risk of developing colon cancer and a screening colonoscopy may be needed sooner than other folks. If you are at low risk, a Cologuard, or non-invasive screening, maybe right for you”.

Additional risk factors for developing colorectal cancer include being overweight or obese, having a diet that is high in red meats, smoking tobacco, or consuming moderate to high levels of alcohol. To learn more about colorectal cancer risk and screening, visit the American Cancer society’s website found here.



Are you in need of a colorectal cancer screening? Access Health Louisiana’s community heath centers are here to help. Visit the link here to find the AHL clinic closest to you or call 866-530-6111 to schedule an appointment.


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