You have probably heard the debates about the value of early detection testing for some cancers such as prostate cancer. But for colon cancer (formally called colorectal cancer), there is no debate - colon cancer testing saves lives. Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer for both men and women in America, yet it is preventable, treatable and beatable.
An estimated 51,370 people were expected to die from the disease last year, accounting for 9 percent of all cancer deaths in the U. S. in 2010. About half of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented in the U.S. each year if everyone, age 50 and older, got screened for colon cancer. More than 90 percent of cases are diagnosed in individuals 50 and older.
Testing for colon cancer can help your doctor find polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous or find colon cancer early, when it is highly treatable. Colon cancer almost always starts with a polyp - a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. If you are 50 or older, the American Cancer Society recommends you talk to your doctor about getting tested, even if you have no symptoms, and discuss which test is right for you. And if you have a family history of colon cancer, you may need to get tested earlier than age 50.
When colon cancer is detected at an early stage, the five-year survival rate is 91 percent; however, due in part to underuse of screening, only 39 percent of colon cancers are detected at this stage. Early colon cancer usually causes no symptoms and can be detected by available colon cancer screening tests. However, as colon cancer progresses, the disease may cause symptoms.
While survival rates are improving and death rates declining, African-Americans still have the highest death rate from colon cancer of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. Because of lower screening rates, African-Americans are less likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage.
The American Cancer Society and its nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network - ACS CAN, are working to ensure all Americans who need colon cancer testing and treatment have access to them. To learn more about how to prevent colon cancer, call your American Cancer Society anytime, day or night, at (800) 227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org/colon.
Steps you can take every day to stay well and prevent colon cancer:
If you are 50 or older, talk to your doctor about getting tested for colon cancer, even if you have no symptoms.
Maintain a healthy weight by being physically active and eating a well-balanced diet.
Limit the amount of red and processed meats you eat and the amount of alcohol you drink.
Make a point to learn your family's history of colon cancer. You may need to be screened earlier than age 50.
Together with our supporters, the American Cancer Society is making progress against colon cancer, and is saving lives and helping create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Another great way you can help "fight back" against cancer is by participating in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Webster County held on June 24 at Dodger Stadium beginning at 6 p.m. To learn more about Relay, or to register as a participant, log onto: www.relayforlife.org/webstercountyia. The public is also invited to attend the Relay For Life of Webster County kickoff "Wing it for Relay" on March 31st at the Fort Dodge Ford Lincoln Toyota dealership from 5 to 7 p.m.
Alan Wooters lives in Gowrie and is a volunteer for the American Cancer Society. He is the Survivorship co-chairperson for Relay For Life of Webster County. For more information on how you can get involved please contact Wooters at 352-3983.