March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Wednesday's Healthier Me brings a especially timely message; North Dakota has one of the highest rates of colon cancer in the country, a fact Sanford Health doctors attribute to too few screenings.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women and affects roughly 5% of the population. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 50,830 Americans will die from colon cancer in 2013 and that an additional 142,820 people will be diagnosed; their latest numbers find 5-year survival rates ranging from 74% among Stage I patients to 6% with Stage IV.
The good news is, colorectal cancer screening tests -- including the colonoscopy -- can find and identify pre-cancerous polyps, and, if found these can be surgically removed before ever becoming cancerous, making colorectal cancer preventable. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment often leads to a cure.
Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. In fact, doctors estimate that regular screenings among the 50+ population would prevent up to 60% of deaths; based on ACS numbers, that's nearly 30,500 Americans this year alone.
With stats like that, you'd think screening and prevention would be a medical priority for many, ... and yet it isn't. For many, the stigma of colonoscopy is too great.
It's important to know that colonoscopies are not the only option; Sanford Health doctors say less invasive screening procedures exist and that people need to talk to their doctor about the options. As with any cancer, early detection is key.
If you think are have colon cancer -- or know someone who may inquire about it -- some of the signs you may look for are: