March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. A time to reflect on so many of our families and friends who have been affected in Northern Nevada and beyond by this common cancer over the years. It is also a time to look forward, and consider what can be done to reduce our own personal risk of developing this preventable disease now and in the future.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States, with 140,000 new cases yearly, with 50,000 people dying from this disease. Although early forms of colorectal cancer are potentially curable, it is infinitely easier to prevent the disease in the first place than to treat the disease once it has become established. Prevention is accomplished with screening techniques, the most effective of which is colonoscopy. In fact, the number of cases of colorectal cancer has actually decreased by 30% over time with screening! The reason that a colonoscopy is so effective at reducing colorectal cancer is because small pre-cancerous growths of tissue, called polyps, are detected and removed completely at the time of colonoscopy. Once the polyp is removed, colon cancer cannot develop!
Although this reduction in colorectal cancer is exciting news, telling us that our efforts have been successful, it is estimated that a full 1 in 3 people who are eligible for colonoscopy screening have not yet done so! If you, a friend, or family member, between the ages of 50 and 75 have not yet had a colonoscopy, please get scheduled! If you have a family history of colon cancer or have any concerning symptoms such as bleeding, or worrisome change in bowel habits, regardless of your age – please get scheduled! Please don’t add to the statistics – let’s prevent this terrible disease from happening altogether.