Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is March 1 – 31
Each March there’s an increase in the number of adults getting screened for colon cancer thanks to Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but doctors in the state are hoping the increased awareness continues throughout the year. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in Nevada and nationwide, but with proper screening and early detection the risk of dying from colon cancer can be reduced by 70 to 90 percent.
“Colon cancer screening should be reviewed at every primary care visit for a patient over 50, especially the yearly checkup,” said Dr. Clark Harrison, a gastroenterologist at Reno’s Gastroenterology Consultants and president of the Nevada Colon Cancer Partnership. “With good medical charts, especially electronic records, it’s easier for doctors to determine if patients are up to date with screening. But patients should be sure to ask about screening if their doctor doesn’t.”
Dr. Jason Crawford, co-medical director at Community Health Alliance, uses a personal loss as a reminder to screen every patient over 50.
“My grandfather and father-in-law were both diagnosed with colon cancer. Sadly, my father-in-law, Gary, succumbed to his battle with colon cancer in February 2012 at the too young age of 71,” Crawford said. “As a family physician who has suffered the loss of both family and patients to colon cancer, my message to patients every day is simply – if you are 50 or older get screened for colon cancer.”
When it comes to colon cancer screening there are two highly effective methods most northern Nevada physicians recommend. Traditional colonoscopy every ten years is still the gold standard for colon cancer screening. However the at-home FIT test, which is completed annually, is a low-cost alternative available at most community health clinics or through a primary care doctor. Both screening tests are covered by most insurance plans, but at just $15-20 the FIT test is also considered by physicians as a great screening choice for those without insurance coverage.
Colon cancer screening is recommended for average risk adults aged 50 to 75, or starting at 45 for African Americans. Those with a family history of colon cancer are advised to begin screening earlier and should talk with their physician about when to start.
Information on each screening test option, along with a list of low-cost community health clinics and other resources for low-income and uninsured individuals, is available online at www.ChallengeNV.com.