It is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, time for men and women to take steps to prevent this deadly disease.

Dr. Tara Ostrom, associate medical director for OptumCare Primary Care, said colorectal cancer is one of the most prevalent and deadly types of cancer in the United States. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in men and woman, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ostrom said this year’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is even more important because at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic many clinics were closed and appointments, including for cancer screenings, were cancelled or delayed. She said it is important to detect colorectal cancer early. When this type of cancer is found at Stage 1, before it has spread elsewhere in the body, the five-year survival rate is about 90 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

It is recommended that people age 50 or older get a colorectal screening, which is a critical preventive measure. While some patients might be hesitant to visit a hospital due to the pandemic, hospitals and clinics are following protocols to sanitize, socially distance people and to keep infected people in isolated areas. There also are in-home colon cancer screening tests available.

The CDC recommends several cancer screening tests including fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) kits that detect blood in the stool, FIT-DNA, a test that detects changed DNA in the stool, flexible sigmoidoscopy, which detects cancer or polyps inside the rectum and lower third of the colon and colonoscopy exams, where a tiny camera transits images from the inside of the colon. A virtual colonoscopy that uses X-rays and computers to create images of the whole colon is another cancer screening test the CDC recommends.