March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Colorectal Cancer

Thanks to improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment, more than a million people in the US count themselves as survivors of colon or rectum cancer (also called colorectal cancer). 

The Heart Mountain Volunteer Medical Clinic is committed to providing patients with information about Colon Cancer and screening.  Wanda Webb and Val Walsh-Haines work with the Wyoming Colorectal Cancer Screening Program (WCCSP), and volunteer at the Clinic counseling patients about free colonoscopies through the State program.  Early detection determines positive outcomes.

Call 307-587-4165 for your FREE 

Colonoscopy Screening!

Frequently Asked Questions about Colorectal Cancer   

What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be.  If everybody age 50 or older had regular screening tests, at least one-third of deaths from this cancer could be avoided. So if you are 50 or older, start screening now.
Who Gets Colorectal Cancer?
Both men and women can get colorectal cancer.Colorectal cancer is most often found in people 50 and older.The risk for getting colorectal cancer increases with age.

Am I at High Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
Your risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if:
  • You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.
People at high risk for colorectal cancer may need earlier or more frequent tests than other people. Talk to your doctor about when you should begin screening and how often you should be tested.
Why Should I Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer?
If you’re 50 or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. Here’s how:  Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps in the colon or rectum. A polyp is a growth that shouldn’t be there.Over time, some polyps can turn into cancer.  Screening tests can find polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.  Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early. When it is found early, the chance of being cured is good.  People who have polyps or colorectal cancer sometimes don’t have symptoms, especially at first. This means that someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important.
What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
People who have polyps or colorectal cancer sometimes don’t have symptoms, especially at first. This means that someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. However, some people with colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer do have symptoms. They may include:
  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Pain, aches, or cramps in your stomach that happen a lot and you don’t know why.
  • A change in bowel habits, such as having stools that are narrower than usual.
  • Losing weight and you don’t know why.
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. These symptoms may also be caused by something other than cancer. However, the only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.
What are the Tests that Screen for Colorectal Cancer?
There are several different screening tests that can be used to find polyps or colorectal cancer. Each one can be used alone. Sometimes they are used in combination with each other. Talk to your doctor about which test or tests are right for you and how often you should be tested.
Fecal Occult Blood Test
For this test, you receive a test kit from your doctor or health care provider. At home, you put a small piece of stool on a test card. You do this for three bowel movements in a row. Then you return the test cards to the doctor or a lab. The stool samples are checked for blood.
How often? This test should be done every year.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
For this test, the doctor puts a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into your rectum. The doctor checks for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon.
How often? This test should be done every 5 years.
This test is similar to flexible sigmoidoscopy, except the doctor uses a longer, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers.
How often? This test should be done every10 years.
Double Contrast Barium Enema
This test is an x-ray of your colon. You are given an enema with a liquid called barium.   Then the doctor takes an x-ray. The barium makes it easy for the doctor to see the outline of your colon on the x-ray to check for polyps or other abnormalities.
How often? This test should be done every 5 years.
How do I qualify for the WCCSP free colonoscopy?
Eligibility criteria for a free colonoscopy through the Wyoming Colorectal Cancer Screening program include:
  • 50 years and older and not eligible for the Federal Medicare program
  • Younger than 50 if medical criteria are met
  • Minimum age of 18
  • Must be a Wyoming resident for at least one yearprior to application
  • Income at or below 250% of Federal Poverty Level
  • Uninsured or underinsured for colorectal cancer screening
The WCCSP currently screens about 480 patients per year at an average cost of $1,800 per procedure. The program has over 300 contracted healthcare providers statewide including physicians, hospital/surgical centers, pathologists, and anesthesiologists.

To find out if you qualify for screening through the Clinic, please call our main phone number and schedule an appointment.
The Bottom Line
If you’re 50 or older, talk with your doctor about getting screened!
(from WY Department of Health)

A personal word from one of our Volunteers:

For as long as I can remember, someone in my immediate family has been afflicted with colon cancer, some of them at a very young age.  I started getting regular colonoscopies when I was in my twenties because of our familys' history. It is amazing how time flies and suddenly you realize it has been 6 or 7 years since you were last checked.  This was the case with me.  My wake-up call came from my little sister who went in for her routine colonoscopy and realized it had been 6 years since she was last checked.  Her test revealed two diseased polyps and because she had previously had an endometrial cancer combined with her family history, more than one blood relative having been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, she was urged by her provider to undergo DNA testing.  The results of her DNA test revealed that she had a genetic mutation called Lynch Syndrome.   Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that increases your risk of colon cancer and other cancers. Lynch syndrome has historically been known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).  After our sisters' diagnosis, My twin sister and I underwent the DNA test here in Cody, which is done by a simple blood draw and sent off to a special lab.  There is a 50% chance that children of a parent with Lynch Syndrome will be a carrier of the mutated gene.  My twins' test results indicated that she did not have the mutated gene, but I did inherit the mutataion.   I have Lynch Syndrome.  The average person has about a 5% chance in their lifetime of developing colon cancer.  My score for the risk is 82% according to my DNA results.  What does that mean for me?  I will have to be diligent in testing, with an annual colonoscopy and other tests semi-annually.  I am lucky.  I do not have cancer and I have had many colonoscopies in my lifetime.  The test is painless and you are "asleep" during the procedure.  I encourage everyone who has a family history of colon and endometrial cancers to take advantage of this wonderful State Program of free colonoscopy screening.  I am always so happy to hear that one of our patients has taken advantage of the free colonoscopy, it could be the life you save is your own.  My brother had colon cancer at 34 and his outcome was not great.  He has had many cancers since and is blessed to be alive and cancer free but his quality of life is diminished. If he had been tested before he saw the blood in the stool, he might have only had to have the polyp removed.  I am sharing my story with you because I know the heartache families like mine have endured and much of this could be prevented with regular screening.  Please do not ignore any of the symptoms mentioned above, and make an appointment for screening today!      

Christy Alan Messnick