March is colon cancer awareness month

Published 5:46 am Monday, March 21, 2005

By By Tim Cottrell
Colorectal cancer has long been a disease cloaked in embarrassment and misunderstandings, according to a fact sheet obtained from Atmore Community Hospital. During the month of March, Colon Cancer Awareness Month strives to dispel many of those myths and raise awareness about the dangers of colorectal cancer.
Mary Jane Schrock, an R.N. who works in the education department at Atmore Community Hospital, talked about what Colon Cancer Awareness Month attempts to accomplish.
"(It tries) to get people aware that they need to get screened (for colon cancer)," Schrock said. "We try to get people checked before it's too late, and to go to a doctor to find out if they are high risk."
Schrock also said that colon cancer is not easily predictable.
"The symptoms are often silent," Schrock said. "Men and women can get it, and heredity doesn't matter. Sometimes it does run in families, but it also happens when there is (no hereditary base). If you have rectal bleeding you need to get screened. Colorectal cancer is either in the colon or the rectum. Any doctor can perform the screenings, but obviously if someone tests positive they'll need to see cancer specialists or surgeons."
Schrock went on to bring up some interesting statistics about the disease.
"The number of estimated colorectal cancer cases this year for men is 71,820 cases," she explained. "The number of estimated cases for women is 73,470. They estimate 28,500 men will die while 27,750 women will die. Ninety percent of cases start after the age of 50, so after 50 men and women should start screening. The rate of getting the disease is much higher among African-Americans. Colon cancer is the third highest killer of African-Americans."
There are several things people should avoid in hopes of prevent the cancer, Schrock said.
"Smoking, tobacco, or alcohol to an extreme level (cause colorectal cancer)," Schrock said. "Obesity is also a cause, and of course age, but there's nothing we can do about that."
Schrock also provided a fact sheet, which dispels many myths about colorectal cancer. According to the information, colorectal cancer can be prevented. It encourages screenings to detect colon polyps. The fact sheet also says that colorectal cancer is not always fatal, and that a vast majority of patients who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer that remains confined to the rectum are still alive five years after diagnosis. The fact sheet goes on to mention the gender and race myths mentioned by Schrock, and concludes by saying that people should be tested even without symptoms.
Get out this month and get screened, it's never too late.

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