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Doctors Stress Importance Of Getting Word Out About Colorectal Cancer

Posted March 22, 2002

— Colorectal cancer is something most people do not want to talk about and that's the problem. It is the second deadliest of all cancers mostly because it's diagnosed too late.

Janet Randall is alive today because she was willing to talk about something most people keep to themselves. In 1999, Randall noticed blood in her stool.

"I finally got up the nerve to make a phone call to let my medical doctors know there was a problem," she said.

That call probably saved Randall's life. She had colorectal cancer. Following surgery and chemotherapy, she has been cancer-free for almost two years now. Ninety percent of colorectal cancer can be cured if caught early.

It usually begins with polyps, which are abnormal growths. A fecal occult test can detect small ammount of blood in your stool, a sign of abnormal growths. Dr. Lanny Newell of Rex Hospital said it is one of the best ways to catch cancer early.

"Those are the easiest tests to do," Newell said.

Everyone age 50 and older should get a yearly test. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps you should be screened before age 50.

People who notice blood in their stool or abnormal bowel habits should definitely talk to their doctor. If the results are positive, a thorough exam will be done to see if it is cancer.

Newell said more people are willing to talk about colorectal cancer, but that is not enough.

"We have to get the word out more. I think it's up to the physicians. It's up to the media," Newell said.

Janet Randall agrees.

"Don't wait. Pursue it. You can't afford to gamble," Randall said.

WRAL Health Team Dr. Allen Mask says certain foods and medications can cause false-positive test results. You should talk to your doctor about ways to help avoid that from happening. Medicare and insurance must cover the cost of the home tests.

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