(WKBN) – March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, it’s the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women.

Trumbull Regional Medical Center is offering free colorectal cancer screening kits to the public throughout the month. We found out why you should be getting screened earlier.

The American Cancer Society recently lowered the recommended age for colorectal cancer screenings from 50 to 45.

“It’s rising incidence in people under the age of 50,” said Meredythe McNally, a gastroenterologist.

McNally says common signs of colorectal cancer include stomach pain; a change in bowel habits, size, or consistency; and blood in your stool. But those symptoms alone won’t tell you if you have it.

“It’s one of the most preventable cancers in the United States, which is why it’s so important to screen for it,” McNally said.

For the screening, you’ll need to take stool samples from three different days.

“There are small sticks inside. You open this up and you’ll notice an A and a B sample. You simply swipe onto both of these and then close that up,” McNally said.

Health officials say regular colorectal cancer screenings can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer between 50-75%. They can also reduce your risk of dying from it by just as much.

The screening is not meant to replace a colonoscopy. If the screening comes back positive, then a colonoscopy will be needed for further testing.

“The best screening tool is the one that your patient is going to complete. So while the cards are better than nothing, they are not as good as a colonoscopy,” McNally said.

You can pick up the free kits from the Radiation Oncology Department at Trumbull Regional Medical Center or any Steward Lab location in Trumbull or Mahoning counties.