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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Here’s what you need to know to save your life

EL PASO, Texas -- Actor Chadwick Boseman died last August from colorectal cancer. With March being Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, here are answers to some of the questions you may have about the disease. ABC-7 spoke with Dr. Jaime Gomez, a board-certified colon and rectal surgeon with The Hospitals of Providence. We started by asking Dr. Gomez about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer, usually through a colonoscopy.

"Screening is incredibly important as early detection results in a 90% survival rate," said Dr. Gomez. "Thorough screenings may detect the cancer before symptoms appear.  We’re seeing that roughly 1 in 3 people are not up to date for their screenings. The new recommendation for screening has been lowered to age 45 for both men and women."

Dr. Gomez explained that in the early stages of colorectal cancer, there are usually no symptoms. "This is why screenings are so important.  Other signs can be rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, or changes in your bowel movements," he said. "You may experience bloating or having a sense of feeling full or abdominal cramps.  This is in addition to weight loss or extreme fatigue."

"The risk factors you should be aware of include a family history of colon cancer or a family history of colon polyps," Dr. Gomez said. "Other factors that can put you at risk include type 2 diabetes, obesity, a diet high in red meat or alcohol use."

The good news, Dr. Gomez says, is that colorectal cancer is very treatable if detected early, which is why he encourages you to visit your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy if you're 45 or older.

The Hospitals of Providence is hosting an free online seminar on colorectal cancer on Thursday, March 18th at 6:00 p.m. where you can learn more about risk factors and screening. You can sign up for the seminar at https://www.thehospitalsofprovidence.com/events#4756.

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Mark Ross

Mark Ross is an anchor/producer for ABC-7.

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