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Does it have to be a colonoscopy? It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Date: 03/30/2021

When it comes to diagnosing colon or rectal cancer, the sooner the better as it’s highly treatable if detected early. However, during the last year across the US, screenings for colorectal cancer are significantly down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Delayed screenings inevitably mean delayed diagnoses. With enhanced infection prevention protocols in place, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center is available to help patients safely receive care. Beginning at age 45, patients are encouraged to begin talking to their primary care provider about scheduling a colorectal screening. For older patients, or high-risk patients, remember to take the initiative to restart the conversation.

“Patients with early stage colon or rectal cancer often do not feel pain,” explains Ted James, MD, Northern Light Gastroenterology. “In fact, the most common symptom of colorectal cancer is no symptom at all—that’s why screenings are so vitally important.”

During Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, consider risk factors, including age, family history, and other conditions that may increase the risk of developing the disease, and discuss what screening options may be available.

“Screenings don’t always mean you must have a colonoscopy,” continues Dr. James. “For some patients, other screening tests may be recommended that require less preparation and produce very accurate results.”

Patients with symptoms of fatigue, abdominal discomfort, changes in stool, including bleeding, and unexplained weight loss, should talk to their doctor immediately about being screened for colorectal cancer. Remember, early detection and treatment can save lives.

To support community members’ colorectal health needs, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center has a team of experts available, including gastroenterologists, oncologists, fellowship trained surgical oncologists, and colorectal surgeons. Patients are encouraged to ask their primary care provider for a referral for a colorectal screening by calling 207.973.4266.