Early Detection Improves Survival Rates
BY CHRIS THOMAS
Utah News connection
SALT LAKE CITY — March is national Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and this year in Utah, between 900 and 1,200 new cases are expected to be diagnosed. Risk factors for colon cancer include family history, ethnic background, poor diet, smoking or drinking, lack of exercise and advanced age. Nearly 400 Utah cases will be fatal, even though colon cancer is treatable when caught early, according to Dr. Paul Amundson.
"What we are really trying to do is raise the awareness," he said, "because it is an extremely common condition that is surprisingly very easy for us to prevent through regular colon cancer screenings."
The American Cancer Society suggests that both men and women start to follow a testing schedule when they reach age 50. In Utah, more than 60 percent of people over 50 can say that they've kept up with their screenings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But for those who are uninsured or have high-deductible policies, the cost of a colonoscopy — from $2,000 to $3,000 — can be prohibitive.
Amundson said the focus on increasing the screening rates for colorectal cancer is an important goal because — as he knows firsthand — finding problems early is vital.
"Get your colonoscopy, like I did last fall," he said. "They found a real small polyp that in five or 10 years had a chance to become cancerous. You eliminate those, you truly prevent a non-cancerous growth from becoming cancerous."
When colorectal cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, nine out of 10 people live at least another five years. However, that survival rate drops substantially if the cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes before being discovered.
State statistics are available at cdc.gov.