February 26, 2010

Day set to promote colon cancer screening

Day set to promote colon cancer screening

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is one of the sponsors for National Dress in Blue Day on March 5 to promote awareness of colorectal cancer and to encourage people to get screened.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, with nearly 150,000 Americans diagnosed each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Approximately 50,000 die from the disease annually.

“Regular screening can find precancerous polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer,” said Sheila Bates, LMSW, the Cancer Center's manager of Community Outreach. “Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment can be very effective.

“We need to remind both men and women that when they reach age 50, it's time to add colorectal cancer screening to their health care list.”

More than 90 percent of colon cancer cases are diagnosed after age 50.

The American Cancer Society currently recommends that screening for colorectal cancer begin at age 50. If there is a family history of this disease, patients may need to begin screening at age 40 or younger.

While family history is the strongest risk factor for colorectal cancer, obesity, diabetes and smoking also are linked to the disease.

Eating a diet high in smoked, cured or red meat also may contribute to colorectal cancer.

“We want everyone to start thinking about colorectal cancer and to talk with their primary care provider about which screening is suitable for them,” said Bates. “This form of cancer often has no symptoms until the disease is at an advanced stage, so early detection is crucial.”