The American Cancer Society designates March as colorectal cancer awareness month. In observance, Texas County Memorial Hospital is offering free colorectal cancer screenings next month.

Area residents may contact TCMH for a free colon cancer screening kit now through Friday, March 17. The screening includes a fecal occult blood test kit for individuals who are over 50 or for individuals who are younger if they have risk factors for colorectal cancer. The kit and information about colorectal cancer will be mailed to participants. Instructions will be included with the kit. 
Colorectal cancer is the No. 4 most common type of cancer killer in Missouri, and the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
However, the American College of Gastroenterologists calls colorectal cancer one of the most preventable and curable types of cancer when detected early. One way to detect colorectal cancer early is to be screened using the fecal occult blood test. 
The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals over the age of 45 who are at average risk follow these screening guidelines for colon cancer: yearly fecal occult blood test; flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; double contrast barium enema every five years; and colonoscopy every 10 years. An individual who has a family history or a personal history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease may begin colorectal cancer screening at an earlier age as directed by a physician.
There are several symptoms of colorectal cancer:  A change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days; a feeling of needing to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so; rectal bleeding or blood in the stool; cramping or steady abdominal pain or weakness and fatigue.
Other health conditions may also cause these symptoms. Only a physician can determine the cause of suspicious symptoms. Individuals should discuss any symptoms with their physician as early as possible. 
To request a free kit or additional information about colon cancer, contact Jason Mayberry, education director at TCMH, by calling 866-967-3311 or 417-967-1340 or e-mail Mayberry at Leave your name, address and phone number when calling or e-mailing for a kit.
All kits must be returned to TCMH by March 31 for processing.

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