March is colorectal cancer awareness month.
And Shasta Community Health Center in Redding, is going blue this month for colorectal cancer awareness.
“We have dyed our water in our fountain blue,” patient educator Betsy Amstutz said. “We're also passing out FIT kits in these special promotional blue bags.”
The FIT kit is an easy, less invasive test that's an alternative to a colonoscopy.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the number two cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the U.S.
That's why physicians say it's so important to get screened.
Patients can do the test in the privacy of their own home and send it off in the mail.
“And so we're just trying to take down the barriers for people in order to do this test because screening is just so important in catching it early,” Amstutz said.
About one in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the U.S.
And while that's a national statistic, doctors say it's pretty close to what they see locally.
“We do have a fairly average rate of colon cancer here in Shasta County,” family doctor Amanda Mooneyham said. “But if you don't detect it early enough then a lot of times we have patients come in too late and they don't really have much of a chance to survive it.”
So how do you know if you're at risk for colon cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, 90 percent of people diagnosed are age 50 or older.
“So that's why it's so important once you reach that 50-year mark or if you have a family history of it, even before 50 years,” Amstutz said. “Just ask your clinician. It never hurts to ask and talk to them.”
They say one of the reasons people don't get checked out is for fear of being embarrassed.
But an even bigger reason is they're afraid of what they might find.
“I think we're all afraid of the big "C" word.” Mooneyham said. “And I don't think many people realize that catching it early is actually a good thing rather than a bad thing.”
Amstutz said they really want to change the stigma behind the disease and urge more people to get tested.
“But really we're trying to promote that this doesn't have to be a scary thing,” Amstutz said.
You can get a free FIT test by visiting Shasta Community Health Center and talking with a clinician.
Or you can ask your primary healthcare physician.