Colorectal cancer second leading cause of death due to cancer

Friday, March 2, 2012

Colorectal cancer isn't something we want to think about, but it can make a difference in things we do care about, such as enjoying retirement and our grandchildren.

But let's think about it for a minute.

More people die each year from colorectal cancer -- 50,000 -- than Americans died in all the years of the Vietnam war. Someone dies from it every 9.3 minutes.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women, but colorectal cancer is the second.

More lives are lost each year to colorectal cancer than to breast cancer and AIDS combined.

But there is good news.

If everyone who is 50 years old or older were screened regularly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 60 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided.

The risk of getting it increases with age. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people who are 50 years or older. Screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened according to national guidelines.

Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment often leads to a cure.

What should we watch for?

Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don't always cause symptoms, especially at first. That's why having a screening test is so important.

Symptoms include blood in bowel movements, stomach pain, aches or cramps that do not go away. Unexplained weight loss. They might be caused by something other than cancer, but only your doctor can help you find out.

You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, then continue it regularly.

People with inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer are at higher risk.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer for everyone until they turn 75, and some people older than that.

It also recommends a colonoscopy every 10 years, a stool test every year, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years with high-sensitivity stool test every three years.

Many insurance plans and Medicare help pay for colorectal cancer screening; check with your plan or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for Medicare coverage.

No, it isn't fun thinking about getting screened for colorectal cancer, or the possibility it may discover a problem.

But it's so much better to know that we have done everything we can to spend more years with those we love.

Community Hospital in McCook is offering a free test kit to screen for colorectal cancer this month; call (308) 344-8550 for more information, or contact your own health care provider.

More information on National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is available at http://www.cdc.gov/features/colorectalawareness/

View 1 comment
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • Just a couple of points from someone who juuuust avoided dying from Stage 3 colorectal cancer in 2001, because doctors had not diagnosed it early.

    I wouldn't recommend sigmoidoscopy, it doesn't take in the right side of the bowel - and more right sided colorectal cancers are showing up. Do the job properly and have a colonoscopy.

    Also, please don't make the mistake of thinking there has to be lots of blood, or even any visible blood, in your stool. I had barely a trace, but my cancer had already totally blocked my bowel.

    Beryl Shaw www.anotherlife.com.au

    -- Posted by berylshaw on Sat, Mar 3, 2012, at 9:15 PM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: