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Colon cancer screening could save your life

Posted at 9:59 AM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 11:59:33-05

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and experts say now is a good time to schedule your screening.

"What's really important is to understand that regular screening will catch a cancer early and makes it much more likely to be cured – treatable and cured," says Dr. Amy Khan, executive medical director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.

In fact, Dr. Khan says there's a 90 percent survival rate for colorectal cancer when caught early.

"Colorectal cancer refers to cancers that originate in the colon or the rectum and that's a part of the large intestine. Colorectal cancers, actually, are the third most common cancers in both men and women in the United States and represent the third leading cause of cancer deaths."

Studies over the past decade show the demographics changing.

"Turns out that we're seeing an increased rate in new colorectal cancers and related deaths in persons age 20-49 and in persons age 65 and older we're seeing a decline," says Dr. Khan.

Dr. Khan says unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decrease in screenings, which could potentially lead to more instances of colorectal cancer. "Don't put off getting your screening test. If you delayed...now is the time to get in," says Dr. Khan.

It's recommended for people age 50 and older to get a screening, but sometimes as young as 45 - either an at home stool test or a colonoscopy in a more clinical setting.

In the meantime, Dr. Khan says now is the time make some positive changes to your health - like exercise and improvements to your diet that will help lower your cancer risk.

"Think about some fresh vegetables, increasing the proportion of those fresh fruits and higher fiber and maybe not taking in as much animal protein, refined meats, if you will, and reducing alcohol use if you use alcohol, and of course stopping smoking."