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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month PDF Print E-mail

The American Cancer Society says colon cancer remains preventable if caught early.


Colorectal cancer (commonly referred to as colon cancer) can be easily prevented; yet it remains the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the United States and will claim approximately 49,920 American lives this year. 

In Nebraska, 950 individuals will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year, and 350 will die from the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, the nation’s leading voluntary health organization, many of those lives could be saved if people better understood the risks for the disease and got tested regularly. 

Colon cancer screening tests identify suspicious or pre-cancerous polyps, which can be removed before they develop into a serious health problem.

“Routine colon cancer testing can actually prevent the disease from occurring,” said Mike Lefler, Director of Communications for the Nebraska Region of the American Cancer Society. “Societal roadblocks, however, need to be overcome to make this the norm. Many people find colon cancer an embarrassing topic to discuss, even with their doctors. For a variety of reasons, many doctors do not discuss the issue with patients at risk for the disease, including those 50 or older and African Americans.”

Preventing colon cancer altogether through testing is the ideal outcome, but early detection of the disease also yields important health benefits. Nationally, people whose colon cancers are found at an early stage through testing have five-year survival rates of 90 percent. However, only 39 percent of colon cancers are detected in the earliest stages. Of those whose cancers are found at the late stage, the five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent.

This March, as the nation observes the 2010 National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society is boosting efforts to increase colon cancer testing and to eliminate the taboo associated with talking about the disease–for the public and the medical community. 

Both men and women are at risk for colon cancer. Personal risk varies, so a doctor can help make informed decisions about when to begin testing and the most appropriate testing method. Factors associated with increased risk for colon cancer include: 

• Age–most diagnosed are 50 or older

• Race–African Americans are at greater risk

• Personal or family history of colon cancer 

• Personal or family history of intestinal polyps

• Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative or Crohn’s colitis)

• Certain genetic factors (familial adenomatous polyposis, Gardner’s syndrome, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, Ashkenazi Jewish descent)

•  Smoking or use of other tobacco products

• Physical inactivity

• Diets high in red meat

For information about colon cancer detection and prevention, call toll-free anytime 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the American Cancer Society Web site at