Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Princeton Time Opinion

October 28, 2011

Guest column: Routine screenings can stop silent killer

PRINCETON — As a concerned registered nurse, I am writing to inform the public of a very real, yet often overlooked and potentially fatal medical condition.

As you know, this month is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — most people are aware of the need to be diligent about monthly self-breast exams and yearly mammograms, but how many are aware of the third leading cause of cancer deaths, its detection, or its prevention?  

This cancer, as estimated by the American Cancer Society, will be diagnosed in 141,210 people this year, and of those, 49,380 will die. This cancer develops slowly, usually over 10-15 years; it typically begins with a noncancerous growth called a polyp. The type of polyp most frequently associated with this cancer is called an adenoma. Adenomas commonly occur.   

It is estimated that one-third to one-half of all people will develop one or more adenomas during their lifetime. Theses adenomas are easily detected and removed before becoming cancerous, when found with regularly recommended screenings. The American Cancer Society recommends that prevention be the primary goal of screenings, instead of focusing on detection (this would mean that cancer is already present).

Several tests are available for patient screening and are best determined by the individuals’ health care provider. If over 50, individuals should see a physician yearly for a physical examination. If symptoms or risk factors are present, individuals may be referred to a specialist for further evaluation. Individuals who have had a close family member with this type of cancer are at an increased risk and should talk with their health care provider today, more frequent and thorough screening may be required before age 50.

So what is this condition?  

It is called colorectal cancer. West Virginians should be especially alert to their risk for this cancer, as they were ranked the 41st out of 50 states (in 2006-2008) in noncompliance with screenings in those over fifty years old.  

Please help me spread the word about this silent killer before it claims someone you love — I lost my mother to it over four years ago.  Not only does this painful condition kill, it makes everyday life difficult to manage with its need for surgeries, ostomies, and demanding cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Act today! If you have or know anyone suffering from the following symptoms, please contact a healthcare provider immediately: rectal bleeding, bloody or dark-colored stools, change in stool shape, cramping in the lower abdomen, unintentional weight loss, new onsets of constipation or diarrhea that lasts more than a few days, or urge or discomfort associated with needed to have a bowel movement when there is no need for a bowel movement.

Please protect yourself and those that you love. For further information, including prevention recommendations, visit the National Cancer Society’s website http://m.cancer.org/ or call 1-800-227-2345.

Allison Darwish, R.N.

Princeton

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