With screening and early detection, colon cancers can very often be successfully treated and even prevented.Still, colon cancer kills more Americans than any other form of the disease except lung cancer. In Massachusetts, more than 3,500 new cases of colon cancer were diagnosed last year – approximately 1,100 of which will result in death.
In order to raise awareness about the fact that regular screening greatly improves people’s chances of living a normal, healthy life after colon cancer – and may even prevent the cancer from occurring – the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is undertaking a public awareness campaign with a simple message: “Call your doctor to schedule a colon cancer test.”
All men and women who are 50 and older should call their doctor about a screening – nine out of 10 colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people older than 50.
Throughout the month of March, DPH will run radio and print ads in English and Spanish encouraging people to talk to their doctor about a colon cancer test. This DPH awareness campaign builds on the national “March Is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” effort, during which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be issuing public service announcements for TV, radio and print that feature celebrated actor Terrence Howard, who recently lost his mother to colon cancer.
“The test was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, “says Boston resident Greg West. “It can be scary thinking about it beforehand, but when it’s done you feel so much better.” West was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago, and hopes that other African-American men will realize that colon cancer screening can save their lives. “The good news about getting screened is that problems can be found early, and guys won’t have to go through what I had to.” Now cancer free, West is grateful for the treatment he received and the time he now has to enjoy with his son.
“There is universal agreement in the medical community that any form of colon and rectal cancer screening is better than no screening at all,” said Paul C. Schroy III, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology, at Boston Medical Center. “Anyone age 50 and over, and those who have other risk factors, such as family history and ethnic predisposition, should pick up the phone today and speak with their doctor about colon cancer screening. While some people are reluctant to undergo screening due to feelings of embarrassment, it’s very wise to take advantage of screening. Screening not only increases the likelihood of detecting cancers at a curable stage, it can prevent the disease altogether by detecting precancerous polyps, which are common and cause no symptoms.”
For more information about screening for colon cancer, visit http://www.www.mass.gov/dphand click on the “Get Screened for Colon Cancer” feature story on the front page.