Governor Branstad has declared March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Iowa. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) urges residents to learn more about colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer death in Iowa.
The thought of a colonoscopy doesn’t typically elicit great excitement or happy anticipation; however, the procedure in which a doctor uses a flexible fiber optic tube camera to examine the lining of your colon for abnormalities is the best way to detect colon cancer. As your doctor or anyone who has undergone a colonoscopy will tell you, patients are usually given medicine to help them relax or sleep, so the exam is not painful. Another option for colorectal cancer screening is a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) that can be done at home. Talk to your healthcare provider about the screen that is best for you.
“Iowa has the fifth highest percentage of late-stage colorectal cancer diagnoses,” said IDPH Director, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. “Unfortunately, late-stage colorectal cancer is less treatable. When caught in the early stages, colorectal cancer is 90 percent treatable.” Since colorectal cancer often causes no symptoms until it’s at an advanced stage, preventive screening is critical. According to the American Cancer Society, a regular colorectal cancer screening test (colonoscopy) should begin at age 50; however, you should talk with your doctor about screening before age 50 if you have a family history of colon cancer, are African-American, or have been diagnosed with Crohn’s or inflammatory bowel disease.
According to the 2010 Iowa Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, about 64 percent of Iowans ages 50 years or older report ever having been screened for colorectal cancer. The Iowa Get Screened: Colorectal Cancer Program is committed to increasing Iowa’s screening rates to 80 percent by 2014. IDPH is partnering with members of the American Gastroenterologist Association (AGA) and several Des Moines area colorectal cancer surgeons to provide free colonoscopies to uninsured men and women between the ages 50 and 64 from March 29 through 31, 2012.
“Colorectal cancer screening saves lives,” said Miller-Meeks. “If everyone 50 years or older was screened regularly, as many as 60 percent of the deaths from this cancer could be avoided.
For more information on colorectal cancer and locations for the Iowa Get Screened Program, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/IGS/.