MMH raising awareness for colorectal cancer
Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 1:37 pm



From are Mary Cordwell, Tonya Belknap, Elaine McCann, Reagan Burns, Clyde Leffler and Alexis Searles of MMH’s Endoscopy Unit.

MASSENA -- March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and to raise awareness, the St. Lawrence Health Initiative started “The North Country Goes Blue Photo Contest.”

Through this contest, SLHI hopes to increase colorectal cancer screening to at least 80 percent in all St. Lawrence County communities.

MMH supported the effort by holding a “Wear Blue Day” on March 19, and has posted colorectal cancer fact sheets on their social media pages and hung posters throughout the hospital.

Colorectal cancer or colon cancer -- cancer that occurs in a person’s colon or rectum -- is commonly found in adults 50 years and older. It is the second-leading cause of all cancer-related deaths.

To protect patients from developing colorectal cancer, board-certified gastroenterologist Dr. Luis Canales, MD, who is a part of MMH’s endoscopy team, offers colorectal cancer screening, among many other services.

“Even though colorectal cancer leads to numerous deaths each year, this type of cancer is preventable,” Canales said. “This is why it is so important for people to reduce their chances of developing this type of cancer by being screened regularly.”

Some guidelines recommend screening for anyone over 50 years of age or who has a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease. However, the American Cancer Society recently issued new guidelines because of a drastic increase in colorectal cancers cases among adults under 55 years of age. The American Cancer Society now suggests screening at the age of 45 or possibly even earlier for at-risk individuals.

Colorectal cancer screening helps providers find and remove polyps, which are abnormal growths on the lining of a person’s rectum or colon, and which can be cancerous or noncancerous. But polyps should not be ignored because it is possible they could turn into cancer over time, MMH warns. Furthermore, colorectal cancer screening can detect this type of cancer when it is in its early stages and allows necessary treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that when colorectal cancer is found and treated during its early stages, 9 out of 10 patients are likely to be alive five years later.

There are a few different other types of colorectal cancer tests. One is a fecal occult blood test, where the provider checks for blood in the patient’s stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer. The standard is for adults 45 and over to have a fecal occult blood test every one to three years. Another type of testing is the colonoscopy, the insertion of a scope into the patient’s rectum to check for polyps on the colon or rectum lining. If a polyp is found, the provider performs a biopsy, which involves taking a sample of the polyp, and sends it to the laboratory for testing to determine whether or not the mass is cancerous. Colonoscopies are generally performed once every 5 to 10 years. But provider might suggest that a patient have this test done more frequently if they are at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.

In addition to having blood in their stool, patients with colorectal cancer might experience nausea, vomiting, belly pain, bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhea, constipation, changes in their stool, and unexpected weight loss. A person might also feel tired, weak, and as if their bowel or rectum will not completely empty. If you are over the age of 45, have a family history of colorectal cancer, or are experiencing these symptoms, MH suggests contacting your healthcare provider about being screened for colorectal cancer. Screenings, early detection, and treatment save lives.

For more information about colorectal cancer and screening, visit the following websites from MMH’s health library:,p10928,