Char-Koosta News

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March is colorectal cancer awareness month but every month should be

B.L. Azure

ST. IGNATIUS — Colorectal cancer is the second leading type of cancer killing men and women in America. In 2010, more than 52,000 Americans died as a result of colorectal cancer; annually more than 137,000 adults are diagnosed with the cancer that affects the lower digestive system. In Montana 500 of its citizens develop colorectal cancer, and 180 Montanans die from the disease annually. It doesn’t have to be that way.

A way people can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer is by getting regular colorectal screenings. When colorectal cancer is detected early, illness and death can be prevented.

“The screenings are very effective at finding colorectal cancer in its earliest stages,” said Laura Williamson, cancer epidemiologist for the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). “The disease affects both men and women, so it’s important that adults aged 50 to 75 get regular colorectal screenings. If you think you’re overdue, we encourage you to talk to your doctor.”

Colorectal cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people age 50 and older. Colorectal cancer poses the greatest risk to adults over the age of 50, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all individuals aged 50-75 be screened for colorectal cancer as part of routine preventive health care.

Currently, about one in three adults between the ages of 50 and 75 are not receiving recommended screening. These are most likely to be Hispanics, those aged 50-64, men, American Indian and Alaska Natives, those who don’t live in a city, and people with lower education and income.

There is good news, however. If everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to encourage people to get screened.

According to the DPHHS only half of Montana adults between 50 and 75 years are getting screened for colorectal cancer. A recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked Montana third lowest among all American states with regard to the percent of adults up-to-date with colorectal screening.

With the implementation of President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), a major barrier to regular screening — cost of access to preventive care — has been removed. For the first time in America, many Americans can receive without cost sharing high value preventive services, such as screening for colorectal cancer and other diseases that threaten health and shorten lives.

Colorectal cancer and death from it can be prevented via effective screening tools. Three screening tests — colonoscopy, highly sensitive stool tests and flexible sigmoidoscopy — are all effective at finding the cancer early.

“Colorectal cancer screening has been proven to save lives. We are committed to eliminating colorectal cancer as a major public health problem,” said Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Public Health and Human Services. “Increasing the nation’s screening rate to 80 percent by the year 2018 is absolutely possible, but there is much work to be done, especially in communities where those without insurance can’t regularly access the health care system. We need greater national efforts to inform and remind appropriate patients that they are due for colorectal cancer screening, and ensure that all Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 receive this important life-saving intervention.”

Beginning this month the Montana DPHHS will also be using Facebook to expand awareness and educate Montanans about colorectal cancer prevention and screening. Check out the Montana DPHHS on Facebook.

The Montana Cancer Control Programs supports comprehensive cancer control in Montana by providing ongoing quality screening services to Montana men and women and education in a manner that is appropriate, accessible, cost-effective and sensitive to each client’s needs.

The importance for both men and women to get screened cannot be over stated. There is more than one kind of screening test for colorectal cancer. Talk with your doctor about which test is right for you.

Suggested questions to ask a your doctor:
   • What is my risk for colorectal cancer?
   • When do you recommend that I start getting tested?
   • How often should I get tested?
   • Which screening test do you recommend? Why?
   • What’s involved in screening? How do I prepare?
   • Are there any dangers or side effects of screening?
   • How long will it take to get the results? • What can I do to reduce my risk of colorectal cancer?

For more information about colorectal cancer, visit website: or or

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