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‘Check Your Colon’

County Among Highest Cancer Screening Rates

Pictured are Chautauqua County Health Department staff with a “check your colon” message encouraging adults to get screened for colorectal cancers. Submitted photo

MAYVILLE — March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging all residents over age 50, or those of any age at high risk or with symptoms, to get a potentially life-saving colorectal cancer screening test.

Every year in New York State, over 9,000 adults are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and over 3,000 die from the disease, according to a 2019 New York State Health Department Information for Action report. However, regular and appropriate screening and polyp removal can prevent colorectal cancer, and with early detection, existing cancer can often be successfully treated.

“We are very pleased to note that Chautauqua County has among the highest colorectal cancer screening rates in all of New York State, with an estimated 77 percent of individuals over age 50 getting their routine screening tests,” said Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County Director of Health and Human Services. “While we’re doing well, we want to see these rates continue to climb because screenings save lives.”

Schuyler attributes the County’s success to a strong commitment by community partners to increase screening rates. Partners include healthcare providers, employers, advocacy organizations, and the local Cancer Services Program.

The Cancer Services Program (CSP) of Steuben, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Counties is an initiative of the New York State Department of Health to provide cancer screening for uninsured men and women. CSP offers no-cost age-appropriate colorectal, breast, and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services, along with follow-up care and help accessing treatment.

Screening for colon cancer over the last three decades has helped to lower deaths from this disease in both men and women. There are now several options for colorectal cancer screening, including traditional colonoscopy and tests that can be taken in the privacy of the patient’s home and mailed in for results.

“The rate of colorectal cancers is decreasing in the over-50 population due to higher screening rates, but in recent years, cases have been increasing each year in younger adults,” said Schuyler. “We encourage the under-50 population to be very aware of symptoms, because preventive screenings are not yet recommended at that age.”

Experts recommend that everyone aged 50 and older should get screened for colorectal cancer. About 90 percent of cases are in individuals over 50, but anyone with a personal or family history of colon polyps, colorectal cancer, or a history of inflammatory bowel disease is at higher risk for developing colorectal cancer. These individuals should talk to their doctors about when to begin screening and how often they should be tested.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include persistent change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation, ongoing change in the consistency of stool, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain, feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely, or unexplained weight loss. Anyone experiencing symptoms, regardless of age, should see their doctor.

More information about the Cancer Services Program is available at their website: www.steubencsp.com or by calling toll-free at 1-877-778-6857. General information about colorectal cancer is available at cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectalcancer.html.

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