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(West Plains) – March is national Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors are reminding people of the power of prevention.

Dr. Chris Cochran, of Ozarks Medical Center Internal Medicine Clinic, says that getting a regular screening once you turn 50 years old is the best way to protect yourself from colorectal cancer. He added that the high definition images that a colonoscopy produces can detect those tiny polyps before they become cancerous, which can save your life.

Health officials say early detection is the best defense against colon cancer and most health insurance plans will pay for a screening. To find out more about cancer prevention and screenings, call Ozarks Medical Center Internal Medicine Clinic at 257-5989.

Another test available to detect colon cancer is the fecal occult blood test (FOBT). OMC will offer free, take-home FOBT screening kits in recognition of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Individuals may call 417-257-6793 to request a kit on March 26, 27 or 28. Once a candidate receives the kit they should follow the enclosed instructions then mail the completed kit to OMC for processing by the deadline on the instructions. The test can identify hidden blood in the stool, which may be an early sign of cancer or other problems in the gastrointestinal tract, including ulcers or hemorrhoids.

Colorectal cancer includes colon and rectal cancers. Colon cancer affects the large intestine or the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer affects the last eight to 10 inches of the colon.

According to the American Cancer Society, 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases occur in people over the age of 50. Other risk factors include presence of colorectal polyps, positive family history of colorectal cancer, personal history of certain cancers such as breast and ovary, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, cigarette smoking and diet.

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