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Most Colon Cancer Deaths Are Preventable, Study

Colon Cancer

This year 50,000 people are expected to die in the US from colon cancer. The American Cancer Society says that the majority of these deaths could be prevented by simple screening tests. The problem is that still half of all Americans over the age of 50 are just simply not being screened.

Screening helps to prevent colon cancer deaths.

This announcement comes from The American Cancer Society's report, Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2013, which was released today in honor the National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

Colon cancer is the third most common and third most deadly cancer in Americans. Also referred to as colon cancer, this disease effects the large portion of the intestines (colon) and can extend to the last few inches of the intestine (rectum). Often the cancer arises from precancerous polyps located inside the intestines which, if detected early, can be removed before cancer can develop.

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Most people do not experience symptoms of the cancer until the disease has already extensively spread. This is why preventive screening is so important. The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults over the age of 50 follow one of the following screening schedules in order to detect and prevent colorectal cancer:

Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
Colonoscopy every 10 years
Double-contrast barium enemy every 5 years
Virtual Colonoscopy (done with a CT) every 5 years

Edward Partridge, M.D., national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society state, “The value of early detection has become a topic of wide debate for some cancers. But for colorectal cancer there should be no debate: screening for colon cancer saves lives. The American Cancer Society has identified colorectal cancer as a major priority because of the enormous potential to prevent the disease, diminish suffering, and save lives.”

A study published in Med Care several years ago examined the reasons why most American adults do not get the recommended screening. Physicians interviewed in this study stated that they felt that patient anxiety and embarrassment over the study in addition to lack of insurance was the main reason for patients not being tested. However, the interviewed adults said that it was not due to embarrassment, but mainly due to lack of physician recommendation. The studies author's concluded that increasing physician recommendations for these tests along with public knowledge would likely encourage more American to comply with screening schedules.

Colorectal cancer affects 5 percent of the American population, however the incidence is highest in African Americans. Other risk factors for developing this disease include a family or personal history of cancer, 60 years of age or more, diet high in red meat, history of inflammatory bowl disease, and colorectal polyps. The risk for developing cancer can be decreased by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a high-fiber and low-fat diet, reducing red meat and alcohol intake.