United States-based gastroenerologist Dr. Noel R. Fajardo is aiming to raise awareness of colorectal cancer so that more people will learn about that the early detection and diagnosis of this cancer that may very well save their lives.

If his name rings a bell, it is because Fajardo advocated for the diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis in the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders community throughout the US.

He promoted and organized multiple large-scale regional screening and benefit events.

Fajardo’s most recent visit to the Philippines last week marks the beginning of his advocacy to improve public awareness here about colorectal cancer.

He also seeks to encourage the government participate actively in efforts to make it easier and less expensive for people to undergo colonoscopy, a diagnostic procedure that has proven effective in detecting colorectal cancer early.

Early detection is the key to ensuring that people with cancer can get the best possible treatment and survive this killer disease, Fajardo said.

“The government must support this advocacy,” Fajardo said. “It must make possible easier and better access to early colorectal cancer diagnostic procedures like colonoscopy.”

“When detected early, colorectal cancer is very treatable,” Fajardo said. “In the Philippines, colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers, after cancer of the lung, liver and breast.”

Ideally, Fajardo said, “everyone over the age of 50 should get a colonoscopy. Former President Corazon Aquino died of colon cancer, yet it is a disease that, if caught in the early stages, can be survived.”

He also said that having regular colonoscopy checks is advisable in people who have a family history of colon cancer and, if they have no family history of the disease, then “we must be sensitive regarding the symptoms one has to watch out for: Persistent abdominal pain, blood in one’s stool and any changes in one’s bowel habits—such as diarrhea or constipation. Any of these symptoms should trigger colonoscopy as a test to determine what is causing these symptoms.”

People younger than 50 who have a family history of colorectal cancer, he said, should have regular colonoscopy tests done early to find any precancerous growths—we call those polyps. A family history of colorectal cancer means one is at increased risk because there is a genetic component to colon cancer.”

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