Cancer awareness month set by Cancer Society
Published 9:53 am Monday, March 12, 2007
from staff reports
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer, commonly referred to as “colon cancer,” is the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. It kills more women than ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancers combined. But most of those deaths could be prevented. Colorectal screening tests can find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer, preventing the disease from occurring. And even if cancer is found, when caught early, colorectal cancer has a 90 percent survival rate in the first five years after diagnosis. Unfortunately, only 39 percent of colorectal cancers are detected at this stage.
In 2007, an estimated 154,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Of these new cancer cases, 112,340 will be colon cancer and 41,420 will be rectal cancer. An estimated 52,180 deaths due to colorectal cancer are expected to occur in 2007, accounting for almost 10 percent of cancer deaths this year in the United States. About 26,000 lives a year could be saved if everyone over 50 got screened for colorectal cancer.
Despite overwhelming evidence that screening can save lives, many Americans still are not following recommendations from the American Cancer Society and others for early detection. Perhaps the least understood aspect of colon cancer, and the most compelling, is the fact that colon cancer can be stopped before it starts if precancerous polyps are found and removed through screening endoscopy (colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy), thereby avoiding the disease completely.
Early colon cancer often has no symptoms, which is why testing is so important. Getting tested is especially critical for Americans aged 50 and older as more than 90 percent of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people in that age group.
When colon cancer is caught at an early stage, it has a 90 percent survival rate. Still, fewer than four in 10 (39 percent) of these cancers are discovered at this stage. The American Cancer Society says increasing colon cancer screening among adults 50 and older represents the single greatest opportunity to decrease colon cancer death rates in this country.
The reasons for low testing rates include many misconceptions. One common misperception is that only those with a family history should be tested. While those who have a family history of the disease are at increased risk, the majority of cases occur in people whose only risk factor is their age - so everyone 50 and older should be screened. Others think testing is necessary only once symptoms arise. Yet symptoms are often a sign that the disease has progressed into more advanced stages.
American Cancer Society efforts to fight colon cancer are made possible in part by support from donations to Relay For Life.
For more information about colon cancer, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.