No, this isn’t a blog about depression or seasonal affective disorder – even though the cold and snow have definitely set in. Blue is the color for Colon Cancer Awareness and March 1st is “Dress in Blue Day,” sponsored by the National Colon Cancer Alliance. Some of you no doubt are muttering – “She’s going to talk about the importance of being screened for colon cancer and I’m not going there!” I’m here to tell you how critical it is that we do go “there.” Colon cancer is a cancer that we can actually prevent! The majority of colon cancers start in a polyp and through screening we can detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous.
Colon cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. but many people are still uncomfortable talking about it. It’s currently the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the country and about 1 out of every 20 people will be diagnosed. But when caught early, colon cancer is up to 90 percent curable. Colon cancer does not discriminate and affects both men and women equally. Screening for colon cancer should begin at the age of 50, unless you are considered at high risk, i.e. family history of polyps and colon cancer, certain genetic mutations or other diseases and conditions.
The Alegent Creighton Health Cancer Center has worked over the past 10-plus years with local, state and national partners to raise awareness about colon cancer and increase the colon cancer screening rates in our area. We have made significant progress. Almost 75 percent of folks 50 and older are getting tested – so if you are part of the 25 percent who have not been screened (yes, I’m talking to you) – it’s time to call your doctor and make the appointment. There are several colon cancer screening options to choose from so talk to your doctor about which one is right for you. You can learn about each option on the American Cancer Society web site.
If you are uninsured or underinsured, there are programs available to help cover the cost of colon cancer screening. In Nebraska, call 1-800-532-2227 or visit www.dhhs.ne.gov/crc. In Iowa call (515)242-6516 or visit www.idph.state.ia.us/IGS. The Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force also has a free screening program during the month of March. Free FOBT kits are available at a variety of pharmacies in the area. You can go to www.coloncancertaskforce.org for more information.
In addition to being screened, there are some other things that you can do to help prevent colon cancer:
- Maintain a healthy weight throughout life
- Adopt a physically active lifestyle
- Eat a healthy diet (lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains)
- Don’t use tobacco in any form
- Limit alcohol intake
- Know your family history
So, it you remember the British Invasion, Woodstock, long hair, beads and psychedelic clothing, you’re the age to get screened for colon cancer. Don’t let colon cancer catch you from “behind.” Join me on March 1st for “Dress in Blue Day” for a future free of colon cancer.