March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

COOKEVILLE — It’s estimated that 151,030 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, a slight increase from last year. 

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is a disease of the colon or rectum and is often treatable when detected through screenings. Each year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with this disease and more than 50,000 die.

“Colon cancer is one of the only preventable cancers we have,” said Dr. Nicole Pisapia, gastroenterologist at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. “We’re seeing more and more younger people with colon cancer, which is why the recommendation now is to start screenings at 45.”

Prevention and screening has been proven to dramatically reduce fatalities from colorectal cancer when it’s found at its earliest stages. 

Cookeville Regional has a program called open access colonoscopy, which makes getting the screening easy. 

This program is designed to allow healthy, age-appropriate patients to have a screening colonoscopy without an office visit.

“It cuts down on wait time,” Pisapia said. 

Patients fill out a questionnaire which is then sent to the gastroenterology office. If the patient is a candidate for open access colonoscopy, the patient will then be scheduled for the study. If not, an appointment will be set up with one of the gastroenterologists before scheduling the colonoscopy.

Scheduling a screening is not hard, but preparing for the screening is another story.

“A lot of people shy away from getting the colonoscopy because of the prep,” Pisapia said. 

“Don’t delay getting a colonoscopy because of that. I tell my patients that chemo is a lot worse than the one-night prep.”

But thanks to advancements in technology, the prep is now available in a pill form.

“One of those things that people didn’t like and sort of shied away from with colonoscopy was that they had to drink the prep,” Pisapia said. “Now we have the ability to just take pills and drink water instead of having to drink the “salt water” that everyone is always so grossed out by.”

“There’s no reason to delay in getting this screening,” said Paul Korth, Cookeville Regional CEO. “It can save your life.”

Cookeville Regional’s gastroenterology providers bring a lot of innovation to the field. All of those will be covered throughout the month on social media and the website,

To learn more about Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, visit


According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, the survival rate of colorectal cancer is 90 percent with early detection. 

The average lifetime risk for men is 1 in 23. The average lifetime risk for women is 1 in 25.

It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women combined in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the U.S.

The rates for people aged 65 or over dropped by 3.3 percent from 2007 to 2016 while rates for people under 50 increased 2.2 percent each year.

The median age of diagnosis for both ages is 66. 

The median age of women diagnosed with colorectal cancer is 69 and is 66 for men.

Colorectal cancer incidence rates were 20 percent higher for African Americans while the death rates were 40 percent higher for African Americans.

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