NORMAN — March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. As the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday, it is emphasizing the importance of age-appropriate colorectal cancer screening.
In 2013, an estimated 50,830 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected to occur in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of all cancer deaths. In Oklahoma, 1,780 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 720 will die from the disease.
The society also is recommending preventative measures individuals can take to reduce risks of developing the disease. Adults should maintain a healthy weight, get plenty of physical activity and eat a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains and low in red and processed meats. In addition, limiting alcohol intake can also help reduce risk of this disease.
“Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if found in its early stages, and half of all colon cancer deaths in the United States could be prevented if everyone followed recommended screening guidelines,” said Gail Sams, health initiatives director for the American Cancer Society, Oklahoma region.
“Most people should start getting screened for colorectal cancer at age 50, but people with a family history are at higher risk and may need to be screened earlier. Only 55 percent of Oklahomans age 50 and over have been screened for colon cancer, which is one of the lowest in the nation.”
Colon cancer death rates have dropped by more than 30 percent during the past two decades due to part of the progress made by the society.
The society is working with community partners to provide education and access to colon cancer screening in communities that are hardest hit by the disease. Society-funded research has led to improved understanding regarding the link between diet and colorectal cancer and the development of drugs to treat colorectal cancer.
In addition, the society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM, are working to ensure that all Americans who need colorectal cancer testing and treatment have access to them.
The society recommends the following tests to find colorectal cancer early:
Tests that detect precancerous polyps and cancer:
· Flexible sigmoidoscopy ever five years
· Colonoscopy every 10 years
· Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) every five years
· CT colongraphy (CTC) every five years
Tests that primarily detect cancer:
· Annual guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) with high test sensitivity for cancer (older versions of this test should not be used to screen for colorectal cancer)
· Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with high sensitivity for cancer (older versions of this test should not be used to screen for colorectal cancer)
· Stool DNA test (sDNA), with high sensitivity for cancer