Your Health: Colon Cancer Awareness Month, Screening Rates Still Low
Published March 13th, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer remains one of America's deadliest cancers, even though it's also one of the most preventable.
More than 50,000 people die each year from colorectal cancer, making it the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the US.
We've known for years that colorectal screening is the easiest and best way to prevent colon cancer, but despite the information, some adults still aren't doing what they're told.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates about 1 in 3 adults are not up to date with the reccomended screenings for colon cancer, that adds up to nearly 20 million Americans who could be at risk.
Today we're showing you one woman's journey as she undergoes her first colonoscopy in an effort to show others just how easy it can be to stay one step ahead of cancer.
At 50 years old, Ruby Wollenberger is about to get her first colonoscopy. She's a thyroid cancer survivor and has a family history of other cancers, so when her primary care physician suggested this as a way to screen for colorectal cancer, she thought, 'better safe than sorry.'
She's following screening guidelines which recommend that adults have their first colonoscopy at age 50, or younger in certain cases of family history.
"We get the chance to detect polyps so we have the chance to remove them and detect cancer," says Dr. Jason Hallman, a member of the American Gastroenterological Association and a physician with Digestive Disease Associates.
In fact, as much as 80% of colon cancer cases could be prevented with better screening, according to some estimates.
Most cases of colon cancer begin with polyps, or growths, in the large intestine that can become cancerous. Often, they don't present any symptoms.
"About 15 to 25% of polyps are precancerous," says Hallman, "so if we take them out, that's a good number of people we're preventing from getting colon cancer in the future."
During a colonoscopy, patients are sedated and the procedure lasts about 30 minutes. The doctor removes polyps which are then tested to see if they're cancerous, the results determine when you should schedule your next colonoscopy - usually it's every 10 years.
After her procedure, Ruby waits for her sedative to wear off while Dr Hallman analyzes her results. They found and removed a polyp; further testing will reveal whether it's cancerous. Ruby says it wasn't as bad as she expected.
"You know it was just the anticipation, getting here, but once I was here I relaxed and everything went fine," she says.
While it may be uncomfortable to talk about, or think about, this procedure could be livesaving.
Dr. Hallman reccommends you talk with your primary care doctor and discuss your family history to decide when and how you should start screening for colorectal cancer.
For more information visit:
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