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More Can Be Done to Stop Colon Cancer

American Cancer Society urging better prevention, wider screening

TUESDAY, March 1, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The majority of deaths caused by colorectal cancer could be avoided by better prevention and by expanding colorectal screening, according to a new American Cancer Society report.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer and cancer death in the United States. More than 145,000 Americans will be diagnosed this year with colorectal cancer and more than 56,000 will die of the disease, according to the society's Colorectal Cancer Facts and Figures.

They released the report Tuesday to mark the beginning of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

"Prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer represents a remarkable opportunity to reduce the burden of cancer in the United States," Dr. Stephen F. Sener, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society, said in a prepared statement.

"The tests we have right now allow doctors to detect this killer at its earliest, most treatable stage, or even prevent it altogether. Unfortunately, despite recommendations from the American Cancer Society and other health organizations to begin screening at age 50, less than half of Americans 50 and over have had a recent test," Sener said.

Screenings tests are highly effective at detecting colorectal cancer at an early stage, when patients have a 90 percent five-year survival rate. Screening tests can also prevent many cases of colorectal cancer by detecting and removing non-cancerous growths called polyps before they turn cancerous.

However, these kinds of tests aren't used often enough, and fewer than 39 percent (4 in 10) cases of colorectal cancer are detected in the early stages. Once the cancer spreads, the survival rate decreases dramatically, to as low as 10 percent when the cancer spreads to distant locations in the body.

The report estimated that screening alone could halve the number of deaths caused by colorectal cancer. The death rate could be cut even more through preventive lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy body weight, getting enough exercise, and not smoking.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about colon cancer, or call the society's toll-free number --1-800-ACS-2345-- for a free information kit on screenings.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society news release, Feb 28, 2005
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