The time is now to ensure early colon cancer detection

Connie Goff

Because of the availability of many types of screening tools for colon cancer, the death rate from the disease has declined in recent years.

Judy Frueh, a nurse and volunteer for the Nodaway County (Mo.) Crusade Against Cancer, reminds us March is Colorectal Cancer Screening Month.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women. When colorectal cancer is detected early, there is a 90 percent chance of a five-year survival rate.

The problem is, only 39 percent of all colon cancer is detected in the early stages, causing the disease to be the second leading cancer killer in the United States.

"I think the most positive thing is that colon cancer has a 90 percent cure rate if it's caught early," Frueh said. "If we can get the word out about early screening, the cure rate would be even higher."

More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers are found in people 50 years of age or older. Early stage colon cancer does not have symptoms, making it very important for all men and women who are 50 years old and older to participate in health screenings. Some of the screening tools recommended by Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society include:

• Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) –– checks for hidden blood in the stool. This test is done in the privacy of home and sent to the laboratory for evaluation. It is important this screening be done yearly.

• Flexible Sigmoidoscopy –– allows a physician to examine the lining of the rectum and lower part of the colon. It is recommended this screening be done every five years along with the yearly FOBT.

• Colonoscopy –– this is one of the better ways to check for colon cancer as the physician can visualize the lining of the rectum and the entire colon. It is recommended to have this procedure performed every 10 years.

To determine what test would be best, consult a health care provider. Many insurance plans and Medicare will help pay for colorectal cancer screening tests.

Some ways to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer include: maintaining an ideal weight, participating in moderate exercise on a regular basis, avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, avoiding red or processed meat and eating an abundance of fruit and vegetables.

"I think it all goes back to eating healthy, exercising and taking good care of yourself," Frueh said. "There are a variety of tools used for screening. The key is to talk to your health care provider to find out the best way to know what's best for you."

People are asked to consult their health care provider for more information concerning health risks and ways to prevent cancer.

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Maryville Daily Forum