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Colorectal cancer treatable if found in time
Health advice
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Liberty County is the recipient of a recent Southeast Georgia Cancer Alliance grant  for a local initiative called the Bottom’s Up Coalition, which will link at-risk, vulnerable populations in Liberty County with resources providing prevention education, screening and treatment of colorectal cancer. Navigation of these services will be channeled by case managers  with coalition members playing active roles in each component.
A project of the Liberty County Health Planning Board, the Bottom’s Up Coalition will be managed by the Liberty County Health  Department. Coalition staff and members will work with the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other state health and social service organizations. Groups that are active in the Bottom’s Up Coalition include:
• Liberty Regional Medical Center
• Coastal Health District
• Georgia Southern University-School of Public Health
• Diversity Health Center
• Liberty County Board of Commissioners
• Fort Stewart Department of Preventative Medicine
• Liberty County Ministerial Alliance
• Liberty County Family Connections
• Liberty County United Way
Cancer of the colon or rectum is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It is second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths. Even though it is preventable, approximately 146,970 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed this year and 49,920 people will die from the disease.
Colorectal cancer strikes men and women with almost equal frequency. Because of disproportionate screening, minorities (particularly African-Americans and Hispanics) are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in advanced stages. As a result, death rates are higher for these populations than they are for white Americans.
The colon and rectum are part of the large bowel, or large intestine, of the gastro-intestinal system. The gastro-intestinal, or digestive system, is the group of organs that allow us to eat and to use the food we eat to fuel our bodies. A healthy colon and rectum is supposed to rid your body of the “leftovers.” If your colon and rectum aren’t working the way they should, you will experience problems such as bloating, gas and pain.
Some people are at greater risk for developing colorectal cancer and may need to be tested earlier and more frequently. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. Everyone 50 and older is at risk. In fact, 90 percent of cases occur after age 50. Starting at 50, men and women who are at average risk for the disease should get screened. Those at higher risk for this disease need to be tested earlier and should talk to their health care professional about how often this should occur. People at a higher risk include:
• People with a personal or family history of benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps.
• People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer.
• People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease — ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
• Men and women, who use tobacco, drink alcohol to excess, are obese or lead a sedentary life.
In many cases, people do not realize they have colorectal cancer because they don’t experience symptoms until the disease has progressed past the early stages. Symptoms that might signal cancer or other gastro-intestinal diseases include:
• Rectal bleeding
• Blood in or on the stool (bright red)
• Change in bowel habits
• Stools that are narrower than usual
• General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
• Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
• Frequent gas pains
• Weight loss for no apparent reason
• Constant tiredness
• Vomiting
Ways to prevent colorectal cancer:
• Regular colorectal cancer screening tests.
• Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
• A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can provide overall health benefits and can help prevent some types of cancer.
Take a moment to talk with your health-care provider  about colorectal cancer and colorectal cancer screening tests. It is important to know your family medical history, because colorectal cancer and other serious diseases can be hereditary.
For more information about Bottom’s Up, call the health department.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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