Letter: Colorectal cancer screening critical
Colorectal cancer continues to be the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States, in spite of the fact that this is one of the few cancers that can actually be prevented or detected early with appropriate screening. This year in Colorado alone an estimated 1,790 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, and approximately 650 people will die of the disease.
Screening for colorectal cancer is crucial, because when found early this type of cancer is highly treatable. Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons against colorectal cancer.
The No. 1 risk factor for developing colorectal cancer is age — 90 percent of cases occur in people older than 50. Because early colorectal cancer usually has no symptoms, the American Cancer Society recommends that everyone 50 and over should be tested, and that people with a family history of the disease should talk to their doctor about testing earlier.
There are many myths and misconceptions about colorectal cancer. One is that a colonoscopy is the only screening option. Actually, there are several screening options available, including simple take-home options. These tests are easy and non-invasive, but do need to be done yearly to be considered an effective screening method (vs. colonoscopy which is generally every 10 years).
Another misconception is that screening for colorectal cancer is too expensive. In fact, most insurance plans (including Medicaid and Medicare) are now required to cover all recommended preventive screening options for eligible patients, with no deductible or cost sharing applied.
Finally, some patients feel they would rather not know about something they can’t do anything about. In reality, there is a 90 percent five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer that is detected at an early stage, before it has spread to other tissues or lymph nodes. This is why conducting routine screenings, before symptoms are evident, is so important.
In spite of all these reasons, at least 23 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 are not getting regularly screened. Could you be one of them? March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to think about what you can do to reduce your risk of this disease. To find out more and to ensure you receive the care you need, call Mountain Family Health Centers at 970-945-2840 or visit us online at http://www.mountainfamily.org.
Amy Ryn, chief medical officer
Mountain Family Health Centers
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