Colorectal screening saves lives

By DEBBIE H. FLEMING Special to The State Journal Published:

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. Colorectal cancer refers to the cancers that occur in the colon and rectum and is often called colon cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women after lung cancer.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that more than 100,000 new colon cancers will be diagnosed next year and over 55,170 people will die from this disease. Of that number over half could be saved if everyone over 50 received a screening test.

Like all cancers colon cancer is best treated when detected early. By the time symptoms of colon cancer are noticed it has usually spread. The five-year survival rate for early-detected colon cancer is 90 percent. This rate drops dramatically to 68 percent once the cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes and to only 10 percent if it has spread to more distant parts of the body.

Colon cancer is one of the few cancers where the screening test can help prevent the development of cancer. Most colon cancers develop from polyps, which are tissue growths that occur in the lining of the colon or rectum. During a colonoscopy, one type of screening test, polyps can be removed before they become malignant and spread. According to the ACS the advantages to having a colonoscopy over other screenings are:

The entire colon can usually be viewed.

It is done every 10 years.

It can diagnose other diseases.

A biopsy can be done and polyps can be removed.

Again as with other cancers there are several factors that put you at greater risk of developing colon cancer. They are:

Age: 90 percent of colon cancers occur in people over 50

Race: African Americans have the highest rate of colon cancer deaths of any ethnic or racial group in the US

Personal history of colon cancer or polyps in the intestines

Family history of colon cancer or polyps

Use of tobacco

Physical inactivity

Diet high in fats while low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains

The Franklin County Health Department (FCHD), the University of Kentucky, Partners in Health and Dr. Mark Hughes, a Frankfort gastroenterologist, will be offering seven community forums to raise awareness about colon cancer screening and prevention beginning in March.

The first forum will be on March 11 at the FCHDs Public Health Center located at 851 East-West Connector. Beginning at 9 a.m., Hughes will present an educational program and provide answers to questions about colorectal screening procedures. The six additional forums will be held throughout the community.

For more information contact the FCHD Community Health Education Team at 564-5559.

Debbie Howes Fleming is the health education director with the Franklin County Health Department. For more information about column topics or to contact her or the FCHD Community Health Education team, call 564-5559.

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