Monongahela Valley Hospital will offer a free colorectal cancer education and screening program on Wednesday, April 24, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the hospital’s Anthony M. Lombardi Education Conference Center.
The event is free but seating is limited so guests should register by calling 724-258-1333.
According to Andrew J. Zahalsky, M.D., director of Medical Oncology at MVH, colon cancer is a preventable cancer but often grows internally without any symptoms, causing many patients to remain undiagnosed until their disease is advanced and requires more aggressive treatment.
“It is true that newer medications and recent advances in cancer treatment are helping patients with their disease to live longer, and the overall numbers of cases have been decreasing during the last 20 years,” Dr. Zahalsky said. “However, we can do better. Too many patients are diagnosed late, and advanced disease is very difficult to cure.”
Nearly half of the colorectal cancer patients in this country — about 51,690 people — will die from their cancer this year.
Most colorectal cancers start as pre-malignant polyps which then take several years to change into cancer.
Dr. Zahalsky said patients who undergo the appropriate screening tests with removal of pre-malignant polyps can prevent themselves from ever having to deal with a full-blown cancer.
Early detection leads to easier treatment and improved survival, emphasizing the need for regular screening. Treatment options are available, even for patients with more advanced disease and for older patients.
A distinguished panel of health care professionals will provide information during the presentation. They include Dr. Zahalsky, who will lead the discussion and provide information on treatments for colorectal cancer; a surgeon who specializes in colorectal surgery, a dietitian to discuss cancer and nutrition and a nurse to explain the free take-home colorectal screening kit to test for blood in the stool.
“Age is a major risk factor in the development of colorectal cancer. Colon cancer is much more common in people older than age 50 than it is in younger people,” Dr. Zahalsky added.
The American Cancer Society recommends, beginning at age 50, men and women should begin testing for colorectal cancer. People at high risk should begin testing at age 45.