03-01-2012

March is colon cancer awareness month; only 63 percent are screened, 900 die annually

Kentucky Press News Service

FRANKFORT- The Kentucky Department for Public Health, along with the Kentucky Cancer Program at the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, is helping to promote “Dress in Blue Day” by asking Kentuckians to wear blue on Friday to promote colon cancer screening.

During a rally at the Capitol, Gov. Steve Beshear signed a proclamation designating March 2012 Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In his current budget proposal, Beshear seeks funding for the colon cancer screening for 4,000 uninsured Kentuckians.

“About 2,600 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed in Kentucky each year resulting in nearly 900 deaths,” Steve Davis, M.D., acting DPH commissioner, said in a statement. “With more awareness and screenings, we can significantly reduce this number and help more Kentuckians lead longer, healthier lives.”

According to DPH, colon cancer is 85 to 95 percent curable when found early, underscoring the need for preventive health exams. These screenings will find abnormalities or early signs of cancer, such as polyps. When detected early, polyps in the colon, which often develop into cancer, can easily be removed during an outpatient procedure.

Both men and women are at risk of developing colorectal cancer and should be screened. However, DPH data shows that only 63 percent of Kentuckians who should have screening tests do so.

Kentucky also has a higher than average population with increased risk of colon cancer due to higher rates of obesity, diets high in fat and a lack of regular exercise.

“Screening and early detection can save lives,” Davis said. “If you are 50 or older or have a history of colon cancer in your family, get screened. It’s the best way to ensure your future health and well-being, avoid more serious complications and reduce the cost of health care.”

According to the Department for Public Health, screening is particularly important in the prevention of colon cancer because the disease may have no symptoms. When symptoms do develop at a later stage of the cancer, they may include blood in the stool, cramping in the abdomen, changes in bowel habits and unexplained weight loss.

Individual risk for colorectal cancer may be higher than average if you or a close relative have had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, according to DPH.