Posted: Mar 6, 2013 3:59 PM by Shannon Newth - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services estimates around 500 Montanans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year and around 180 will die.
But that number doesn't have to become reality.
The colon, or large intestine, is not a part of the body many are eager to discuss. But it's a part of the body that needs attention and, more importantly, screening.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, but it's 90 percent preventable if detected early.
"The unique thing about colorectal cancer is that there's a phase where you can intervene and prevent the evolution to a cancer and decrease the mortality of the disease," Dr. Karl Guter said.
Oftentimes, individuals with colon cancer will have no symptoms, especially in the early stages.
"So by the time they present, the cancer has spread beyond the confines of the colon to other organs," Dr. Bryan Martin said.
An unsettling trend is happening both around the country and in most areas of Montana. The percentage of people diagnosed with late stage colorectal cancer is higher than those diagnosed in an early stage.
The Great Falls region is the one exception, with a slightly higher percentage of early stage diagnosis.
Survival rates significantly improve when cancer is detected early. That's why screening is critical.
"At age 50, that's the ‘magic age,' talk to your provider about a colonoscopy. It is the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening," said Penny Paul of the City-County Health Department Cancer Control.
"Colonoscopy, you look for worrisome polyps and you can remove those and you sometime pick up on unexpected cancer itself, which is then treated with recession," Guter said.
While a colonoscopy is proven most effective, other screening options are available, including the Fecal Occult Blood Test, a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy and Double Contrast Barium.
For individuals with a family history, screening needs to start 10 years before the close relative was diagnosed.
Symptoms call for immediate action, no matter what age or how recent a screening. These include a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding and persistent abdominal discomfort.
Despite the effectiveness, only 60 percent of Montanans are being screened.
A 2010 study indicates Montanans didn't get screened because they thought they were healthy and didn't need it. But a number of factors can contribute to inaction.
"I think people are just so into their busy work and social lives, that they have to take a break and think about the other big part of their lives and that's taking care of themselves and their family," Karen Grindeland of City-County Health Department Cancer Control said.
"People tend to put off a little bleeding, put off a little change in bowel habits. Sometimes, it's an insurance issue. Sometimes, insurance is the excuse for not doing something," Guter said.
Help is available through health departments and other organizations.
The bottom line is that screening saves lives.
"When you as an individual decide not to get screened or that it won't happen to you, when it does happen, it does have a significant impact on your family," Martin said.
Colorectal Cancer Information:
Montana Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Bureau: http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cancer/documents/ChronicSurveillanceReport_CRC_electronic.pdf
Colon Cancer Alliance: http://www.ccalliance.org
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer/index
Prevent Cancer Foundation: www.preventcancer.org
Montana Cancer Control Program: www.cancer.mt.gov
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/screening/
National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign: www.cdc.gov/screenforlife
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: http://www.screen4coloncancer.org/screeningOptions.asp
Montana Cancer Control Program: 1-888-803-9343
American Cancer Society: 1-800-227-2345
National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign Screen for Life: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)