From left are Mary Hitchcock, RN; Reproductive Health Clinical Manager, Rosemarie Surowiec, PA; and Bilingual Outreach of OCO Migrant Services Adriana Becker. From left are Mary Hitchcock, RN; Reproductive Health Clinical Manager, Rosemarie Surowiec, PA; and Bilingual Outreach of OCO Migrant Services Adriana Becker. Submitted photo
Written by  Mar 03, 2017

OCO Recognizes 2017 Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Early detection is perhaps the most important weapon in the war against cancer. March is “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month,” a time when the Cancer Services Program Partnership of Oswego County reminds us that regular screenings are especially important for the early detection of colorectal cancer.

Carolyn Handville, coordinator for Oswego County Opportunities’ (OCO) Cancer Services Program Partnership, recommends that all men and women ages 50 and older talk to their health care provider about being screened for colorectal cancer. “People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum), or those with other high-risk conditions, may need to begin regular screening at an earlier age. Speak with your doctor about when you should begin screening and how often you should be tested,” said Handville.

Excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US. According to the New York State Department of Health, it is estimated that one in 20 people will develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime. Each year in New York State, more than 10,000 people develop cancer of the colon and rectum, and nearly 3,600 New Yorkers die from this disease.

Some people are at greater risk than others of developing colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is more likely to occur as people get older. Although this disease can occur at any age, most people who develop colorectal cancer are over age 50. Men and women may be at higher risk if a parent, sibling or child has had the disease. People with a history of colon polyps, colon cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease are also more likely to develop colorectal cancer.

Early on, colorectal cancer may not cause symptoms. If there are symptoms, they may include blood in or on the stool, change in bowel habits, persistent pains, aches, or cramps in the stomach, and unexplained weight loss. While these symptoms may have other causes, it is important to talk to your physician if you experience any of these symptoms.

While colorectal cancer is a serious concern, Handville said that there are ways to help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. “Eating healthy, quitting smoking, drinking alcohol only in moderation and getting regular physical activity all help to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer,” said Handville. “Colorectal cancer can be prevented. Regular screenings can find pre-cancerous polyps so they can be removed before they become cancer. It is paramount that men and women age 50 and over receive regular colorectal cancer screenings.”

OCO’s Cancer Services Program provides free colorectal cancer screenings to uninsured men and women ages 50 to 64. Additionally the program provides free clinical breast exams, mammograms and pap/pelvic exams. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact the Cancer Services Program at 315-592-0830.

OCO is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 100 separate locations. For more information, visit

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