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Colon Cancer Awareness Month

You don't hear much about colon cancer, but it is the second leading cancer killer in this country and it'll claim 4000 lives in Florida this year.

Ten thousand Floridians will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year. Men, women, black, white, Hispanic, it does not discriminate.

It's one of the most curable cancers there is, but testing for it isn't pleasant and the idea of inserting a tiny camera where the sun don't shine makes some people recoil in horror.

"I call it the yuck factor. It's not the most pleasant thing to talk about for some people, and then it's fear, fear of the preparation, fear of the procedure, will it hurt? It's fear of what they'll find if they find something," says Dr. James Stockwell, a gastroenterologist.

If you have a case of posterior paranoia, Foy Thompson is among the first to tell you to get over it. His wife pushed him to take a stool sample, which ultimately led doctors to a cherry size tumor in his colon.

"It's quite a life changing mood for you when the doctor calls and tells you you have a carcinoma and you need to get your affairs in order at home as well as at work," says Foy.

Foy didn't have a family history of colon cancer or any of the telltale symptoms. Blood in the stool, bleeding from the rectum, any noticeable change in bowel habits, either constipation or diarrhea, cramping and fatigue.

Foy's cancer was caught early. It's 90 percent curable when it is. Foy has had a clean bill of health for five years now, but without a change in doctors, and prodding from his wife Janice, Foy admits things could be different.

"Never been in the hospital, 50 years old and never been in the hospital in my life, not feeling bad, no indications in any way, and if you hadn't had this test done, then you probably wouldn't have been talking to me today."

The good news is that colon cancer is highly curable. Ninety-percent curable in fact if it’s caught in its early stages, but people are afraid to get tested and only about a third of the cancers are found that early.

If colon cancer is found in its later stages, the chance of surviving five years is 63 percent among whites, 53 percent among African Americans, and if it has made its way to your liver or lungs, your chances of survival plummet to nine percent.

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Colorectal Cancer

  • Colorectal cancer includes cancers of the colon, rectum, appendix, and some anal cancers.

  • Colorectal cancers most often begin as benign polyps which later develop into cancers.

  • Colorectal cancers are the second largest cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

  • It was estimated that in 2002, there would be 148,300 new cases detected and that there would be about 56,600 deaths.

Early Detection

  • Despite its high incidence, colorectal cancer is one of the most detectable and, if found early enough, most treatable forms of cancer.

  • The survival rate for people with colorectal cancers found early is more than 90 percent.

Symptoms

  • The most common symptom of colorectal cancer is no symptom.

  • Colorectal cancer can be present in people without symptoms, known family history, or predisposing conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Regular screening will help identify pre-cancerous polyps and colorectal cancers earlier.

  • Screening for colorectal cancer works in three ways:
    • First, by finding cancers early when treatment is most effective.
    • Second, by finding growths (polyps) inside the colon and removing them before they become cancer.
    • Third, by finding cancers early when treatment is most effective.

Most People Don't Screen

  • In a recent survey of Americans over 50 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 40 percent reported that they had ever had an FOBT (the take-home stool card test) and only 42 percent reported that they had ever had a flexible sigmoidoscopy.

  • This compares to 85 percent of women who were screened for breast cancer.

Source: http://www.ccalliance.org/index.html (The Colon Cancer Alliance Web Site)


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