The Life-Saving Importance of Colorectal Cancer Screenings
The statistics are eye-opening. According to the 2020 Data Report on Colorectal Cancer in Massachusetts, colorectal cancer is the most commonly diagnosed and third cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the state, with the highest incidence between 2012-2016 among Black non-Hispanics. Therefore, the importance of screenings and early detection of the disease cannot be stressed enough.
Whittier Street Health Center has hosted and continues to host specialized colorectal cancer workshops for staff on clinical guidelines and protocols on screening options, an initiative that underscores the value of early screening and proven strategies to reduce and prevent colon cancer. We also conduct community-based outreach to deliver promotion of and education about the importance of screening and preventative measures as well as lifestyle changes to help prevent the disease.
Smoking cessation, a healthy balanced diet, limiting alcohol intake, routine exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are all proven measures to help guard against colorectal cancer. Many medical experts often recommend a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – a healthy way of eating that may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and other chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease and diabetes.
Early screening is of particular significance as people with colorectal cancer often do not have symptoms in the early stages. Most colon cancers begin as polyps, small non-cancerous growths on the colon wall that can grow larger and become cancerous. As polyps or cancers grow, they can bleed or block the intestines. Symptoms that may appear in later stages of the disease include diarrhea, constipation, blood in stool, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, and bloating.
“Screening exams for colorectal cancer can find the disease early when it’s most treatable,” says Dr. Stephen Wright, medical director at Whittier Street Health Center, noting the disparate incidence of high mortality rates resulting from colorectal cancer in minority, low-income, and immigrant communities. “At Whittier we are dedicated to closing this gap by offering and delivering diagnostic services to the diverse populations that depend on us for high quality, cost-effective health care.”