LEWISTON – Dr. Philip J. O’Connor, gastroenterologist, will be the featured speaker on Tuesday, March 8, at a Central Maine Healthcare Community Breakfast Forum.

O’Connor will discuss “Prevention and Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer,” focusing on what an individual can do to lessen chances of developing colorectal cancer. He will also talk about early detection.

This installment of the forum coincides with an initiative by the Central Maine Medical Family to highlight National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month by sponsoring a colorectal cancer screening. Screening kits will be available at the presentation.

In Central Maine Medical Center’s regional referral area where some 400,000 live, O’Connor said statistics show that about 450 people will develop colorectal cancer in the next year. The good news is that some 80 percent can be very helped if the disease is detected early.

Colorectal cancer first appears as a benign growth in the intestine. It takes about five years for the growth, called a polyp, to develop into a cancer. It takes another five years for the cancer to spread to a point where effective treatment isn’t possible. If the disease is detected in its early stages, the polyps can be removed and the spread of cancer prevented.

The definitive test for colorectal cancer involves a procedure called a colonoscopy. The examination is done by gastroenterologists using a specially designed apparatus that allows the physician to view the inner wall of the large intestine and remove any polyps.

The non-invasive colorectal cancer screening kits that CMMC is making available in the Lewiston-Auburn area detect the presence of blood in fecal matter. Blood in the stool often results from polyps that leak blood into the intestine.

A member of the Lewiston-Auburn medical community since 1978, O’Connor was the first gastroenterologist to establish a practice in the central and western Maine region. The medical practice he developed came to be called Central Maine Gastroenterology Associates and now includes five physicians. He is a former president of the CMMC medical staff.

The forum is open to the public and will be presented from 7:30 to 9 a.m. in the Chairmen’s Rooms on the ground floor of the 12 High Street Medical Office Building. Those wishing to attend are asked to call 795-2712. Free parking is available in the garage and in adjacent parking lots.

The screening kits will also be available at the following locations from March 7 through 11: The Medicine Shoppe, 373 Sabattus St.; 12 High Street Medical Office Building, ground floor lobby, 8 a.m. to noon; Bedard’s Pharmacy, 61 College St.; Bedard’s Medical, 1125 Lisbon St.

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