Newswise — With the arrival of March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, faculty and staff in the Department of Internal Medicine’s Section of Digestive Diseases are redoubling their efforts to spread the word about the importance of screening, especially in younger individuals and those with a family history of the disease.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. Still, many people are unaware of the role screening plays in reducing their risk of developing the disease.

“Caught early, this cancer has an excellent prognosis, and screening has been shown to decrease incidence and mortality,” said Xavier Llor, MD, PhD, professor of medicine (digestive diseases), Yale School of Medicine; medical director of the Cancer Screening and Prevention Program and Colorectal Cancer Prevention Program at Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center.

Despite the continued overall decline of colorectal cancer, recent statistics are worrisome, Llor said. According to the latest report from the American Cancer Society, the proportion of cases among those younger than 55 has increased and the progress against colorectal cancer as a whole has slowed.

Llor recommends that health care providers start the discussion with patients by age 40, to increase the chances that they will get screened by 45. Individuals with a parent, sibling, or child who had colorectal cancer should start screening earlier, at age 40, he said.

“It takes time and repeated reminders for many people to finally have a colorectal cancer screening done,” he said. “If we promote awareness together, with the help of general practitioners, we can make a difference.”

Since forming one of the nation’s first sections of hepatology and then gastroenterology over 50 years ago, Yale’s Section of Digestive Diseases has had an enduring impact on research and clinical care in gastrointestinal and liver disorders. To learn more about their work, visit Digestive Diseases.

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