Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the country, yet it is one of the most preventable types of cancer, and curable, when detected early.
That’s the message Dr. Jorge L. Herrera, Alabama Governor of the American College of Gastroenterology and professor of medicine with the University of South Alabama, hopes to spread during March, designated as colorectal cancer awareness month.
According to the American College of Gastroenterology, nearly 147, 000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be detected in 2004 and more than 56,000 Americans will die from it. The majority of those afflicted are over the age of 50 and the risk increases with age. Each married couple has a one in ten chance that either the husband or wife will develop colorectal cancer.
“In its early stages, colorectal cancer has no symptoms,” said Herrera. “That’s why screening is so important. Early detection and intervention can greatly increase your chances of cure.”
Most colon cancers develop from benign polyps. A screening test called a colonoscopy can detect and remove polyps before they emerge as cancer. If caught in an early stage, the cancer can be completely removed with surgery.
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends that persons over the age of 50 with no other risk factors have a colonoscopy every ten years. The test should be done more frequently, and at a younger age if a family or patient history of colorectal cancer exists. Other screening options include yearly fecal occult blood tests with a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years.
“It is important to discuss these tests with your doctor to see which is appropriate,” said Herrera. “We know that early detection of colorectal cancer saves lives and saves health care resources.”
For additional information about colorectal cancer and screenings, talk to your doctor or call the University of South Alabama Division of Gastroenterology at (251) 660- 5555.