“If you’re 50 or older or have a family history, getting a colorectal cancer screening test could save your life,” said Connecticut Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen. “Screening tests help find polyps that may become cancer. These polyps can be removed before turning into cancer, thus preventing the disease. Screening also can find this cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most effective.”
She also stated that the State’s DPH is joining public health officials across the country by recognizing March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and encouraging people to begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue getting screened at regular intervals. People with a family history or certain medical conditions may need to start screening even earlier.
Health officials said that a declining rate of colorectal cancer death over the years has been attributed to an increase in colorectal cancer screening. However, a quarter of Connecticut residents over the age of 50 have never been screened for this disease. Black men have the highest rate of dying from colorectal cancer. Lack of access to screening and quality treatment may contribute to this disparity.
It should also be noted that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Connecticut. Health officials project that over 1,600 Connecticut residents will be diagnosed this year, and over 400 will die from the disease. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include being over the age of 50, a family history of colorectal cancer, a high fat diet, heavy use of alcohol, obesity, and smoking.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening for men and women aged 50–75 using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy. The decision to be screened after age 75 should be made on an individual basis. If you are older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.
No-cost colorectal cancer screenings are available to qualifying individuals at facilities throughout the state. For more information on colorectal cancer and screenings, please visit www.ct.gov/dph/colorectal or call (860) 509-7804.