Announcements, Health

Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer kills over 80 Alaskans every year, but it can usually be prevented with proper screening and treatment.  The staff at Seward Community Health Center are ready to help prevent colon cancer in the Seward area.

Colorectal cancer usually starts as a growth from the lining inside the colon or rectum.  The growths often start as polyp, which looks a little like a mushroom.  These polyps usually start as benign (not cancer) growths but can develop into cancer over a period of five to ten years.  Removal of these polyps usually prevents cancer.  Cancer identified before it penetrates the colon is usually curable.  Both men and women get colon cancer.  It usually is found in people over 50 years old, however it can occur in younger individuals who have inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer or polyps.

 Nat'l Cancer Institute graphic - colon cancer progression

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Colorectal cancer screening provides early detection and longer lives.  Most people should start screening at age 50 and stop at age 75.  There are many methods of screening.  The two methods that we usually recommend are fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) and colonoscopy.

Fecal occult blood testing uses a very sensitive test to detect small amounts of blood in the stool.  These small amounts can signal cancer in the colon and are often too small to see.  The tests consists of three cards to be used on three separate days.  The samples are obtained at home, using a stick to place small amount of stool on the card.  The cards are then returned to Seward Community Health Center for testing.  This is the cheapest test and can be accomplished locally.  If no blood is detected, the test should be repeated every year.  If blood is detected, referral to a specialist and a colonoscopy is usually required.

Colonoscopy is a procedure accomplished by a specialist using a flexible tube with a light and camera attached.  The tube is long enough to allow the entire colon to be examined.  Cancer and polyps are identified visually.  This test requires a cleansing of the colon for preparation and is not available locally.  If no cancer or polyps are detected, the exam can be repeated every 10 years.  If polyps are detected, they can usually be removed and cancer prevented.  Repeat colonoscopy is then accomplished in three to five years.  If abnormal colon is detected, it can be biopsied to make an accurate diagnosis.

Most health insurance plans, including Medicare, cover colorectal cancer screening.

Make an appointment to be seen at Seward Community Health Center: where your health matters.

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