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Monongahela Valley Hospital offers Free Colorectal Cancer Screening, Education

(April 22, 2014 - Carroll Township, Pa.)

Monongahela Valley Hospital will offer a free colorectal cancer education and screening program on Wednesday, April 30, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the hospital's Anthony M. Lombardi Education Conference Center.

A free take-home test to screen for blood in the stool will be given to all participants. The event is free, but seating is limited; guests should register by calling 724-258-1333.

The American Cancer Society recommends, beginning at age 50, men and women should begin testing for colorectal cancer. People at high risk should begin testing at age 45.

According to Andrew J. Zahalsky, M.D., director of Medical Oncology at MVH, colon cancer is a preventable cancer but it can often grow internally without any symptoms, causing many patients to go undiagnosed until their disease is advanced and requires more aggressive treatment.

"It is true that newer medications and recent advances in cancer treatment are helping patients with the disease to live longer, and the overall numbers of cases have been decreasing during the last 20 years," Dr. Zahalsky said. "However, we can do better. Too many patients are diagnosed late, and advanced cases of the disease are very difficult to cure."

Nearly half of the colorectal cancer patients in this country - more than 50,000 people - will die from their cancer this year.

Most colorectal cancers start as pre-malignant polyps which then take several years to change into cancer.

Dr. Zahalsky said patients who undergo the appropriate screening tests with removal of pre-malignant polyps can prevent themselves from ever having to deal with a full-blown cancer.

Early detection leads to easier treatment and improved survival, emphasizing the need for regular screening. Treatment options are available, even for patients with more advanced disease and for older patients.

A distinguished panel of health care professionals will provide information during the presentation. They include Dr. Zahalsky, who will lead the discussion and provide information on treatments for colorectal cancer, and Hiram Gonzalez, M.D., a surgeon affiliated with MVH will present information on surgical interventions.

Registered Dietitian Krista Begonia will discuss cancer and nutrition and Carol Manown, RN, will explain the free take-home colorectal screening kit to test for blood in the stool.

"Age is a major risk factor in the development of colorectal cancer. Colon cancer is much more common in people older than age 50 than it is in younger people," said Dr. Zahalsky.

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