March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and IU Health is offering free colorectal cancer take-home screening kits at a variety of locations throughout Starke, Marshall, and LaPorte counties. Katie Sarver, manager of wellness outreach for IU Health Starke and LaPorte hospitals, said colorectal cancer can affect anyone, but it’s easy to detect early, allowing doctors to treat the condition effectively.
Sarver explained that the screening kit requires three consecutive bowel movements and will be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed.
“And after we receive the results back, it tells us if any of the bowel movements came back with a positive for blood in the feces, and if so, then we would send a letter to the participant just stating that we highly recommend a follow up with your physician in order to perform a full colonoscopy, especially if one has not been done,” said Sarver.
Sarver said anyone aged 50 or older is at an increased risk for developing cancer, so physicians are asking everyone over the age of 50 to undergo a screening to stay on top of their health. While it’s a wise idea to undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years after reaching the age of 50, she said taking a screening is a good way to ensure your well-being.
“If you’re not having any issues and you just want to make sure, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, any history of inflammatory bowel disease or those sorts of things, you could definitely take one of these screenings and that would be a safe way to go about between your current colorectal screens or colonoscopy, and the next one that you have. So it’s just a good way to stay on top of your health,” Sarver explained.
Sarver said that warning signs for colorectal cancer include changes in bowel habits, severe long-lasting diarrhea, severe constipation, or significant changes in stool consistency, as well as rectal bleeding or blood in your stool. However, even without those symptoms, undergoing a free screening couldn’t hurt.
“Just like with any cancers, you want to make sure that you’re staying healthy and that you’re watching what your body is telling you so you can catch these things earlier, because people can die from colorectal cancer, just like any other cancer, so you want to make sure that you stay on top of your game and you’re keeping an eye on your health so you don’t have any complications from colorectal cancer,” Sarver emphasized.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States when men and women are considered separately, and the second leading cause when both sexes are combined, and is expected to cause about 50,830 deaths during 2013.
The death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for more than 20 years, and officials expect that could be due to a number of likely reasons, including screening and effective treatment. There are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.
Local IU Health pick up locations include:
- IU Health La Porte Community Health Center, 400 Teegarden, Ste. B, La Porte
- IU Health La Porte Physicians Primary Care, Dr. Bejes, 414 Lane St., North Judson
- IU Health La Porte Physicians Primary Care, Dr. Browne, 402 W. Culver Rd., Knox
- IU Health La Porte Primary Care, Dr. Hannon, 8988 E. U.S. Hwy. 20, New Carlisle
- IU Health La Porte Physicians Primary Care, Dr. Holm, 2855 Miller Dr., Ste. 117, Plymouth
- IU Health La Porte Physicians Primary Care, Dr. Firestone, 156 Flynn Rd., Westville
- IU Health La Porte Physicians Surgical Care, Dr. Subba Rao, 104 E. Culver Rd., Ste. 102, Knox
- IU Health Starke Hospital Wellness Outreach Department, 102 E. Culver Rd., Knox
- IU Health Wellness & Rehabilitation at The Crossing, 1203 Washington St., La Porte
- IU Health Wellness & Rehabilitation at LifeWorks Business Park, 3777 N. Frontage Rd., Michigan City