Friday, March 27, 2009

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Got screened?: From left, Judy Connerty, RN, MS, CGRN, of the Endoscopy Unit; Lori Santoro, of the Gastroenterology Unit; and Rachel Bereiwersio, RN, of the Endoscopy Unit.

Colorectal cancer screening, like other cancer screening tests, may not be at the top of every person’s to-do list – but taking the time to be screened can be a life-saving decision. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 50,000 Americans will die due to colorectal cancer this year, making it the second leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in the United States.

The statistics, however, are not all bad. Colorectal cancer screening can help find polyps, which can be removed before becoming cancerous. And even if cancer is found, when it is detected early on, the five-year survival rate is approximately 90 percent. To raise awareness of the benefits of screening, March has been designated National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Colorectal cancer screening is recommended for all individuals over the age of 50. Those with additional risk factors, such as family members with a history of colorectal polyps or cancer, should speak with their doctor about starting a screening program at an earlier age or being screened at more frequent intervals.

Throughout March, MGH helped raise colorectal cancer screening awareness in a variety of ways. Along with nine local hospitals, MGH participated in a free colonoscopy program, in which each site provided free screenings to seven patients who otherwise may not have been able to afford them. This pilot program, initiated by the American Gastroenterological Association, may become a nationwide annual initiative in the future. Other awareness efforts included informational sessions to nursing staff across the hospital, as well as an information table in the White Lobby with clinicians and staff on hand to answer questions and schedule screening procedures.

For more information about colorectal cancer screening, call (617) 726-2426.

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