The rise of Colorectal Cancer in American Samoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2018) colorectal cancer almost always develops from “precancerous polyps” (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Screening tests such as:

DRE or digital rectal exams (for men and women) allows a doctor to check the lower rectum, pelvis, and lower belly for cancer and other health problems.

FOBT or fecal occult blood tests can detect blood in the stool.

The final test, a colonoscopy, can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.

Beginning at age 50, men and women through age 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer.

However, you may need to be tested earlier than 50, or more often than other people, if —

  • •            You or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • •            You have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

If you think you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about —

  • •            When to begin screening.
  • •            Which test is right for you.

All three tests: DRE, FOBT and colonoscopy can be done at the LBJ Hospital.

The first step is to visit your doctor and ask for the DRE. (For women, the DRE can be done during your annual PAP test.)  If you are age 50 or over ask your doctor for an FOBT. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have seen blood in the toilet water after using the toilet, or on tissue. 

Also, be sure to ask your doctor to explain what each screening test is, and when your results will be available. 

Only an estimated 7% of American Samoans are tested for colorectal cancer, one of the most easily detectable and treatable cancers. 

Yet cancer is the second leading cause of death in the territory. 

If you think colorectal cancer doesn’t affect you… think again.

This past week the Cancer Coalition provided stipends to three Samoan men diagnosed with colorectal or cecum cancer within the last seven months, and 14 colorectal cancer patients since 2014. (Those are just the ones the Coalition has presented stipends to — there are many out there we don’t know about.)

Wearing Blue for Colorectal Cancer Awareness is great… Getting Screened for Colorectal Cancer is even better! 

Don’t hide your head in the sand! Get screened!

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