Despite overwhelming evidence that screening test can save lives, many African Americans still are not following recommendations from the American Cancer Society for early detection of colorectal cancer (commonly referred to as colon cancer). March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the American Cancer Society is urging men and women 50 and older to get tested. An estimated 16,000 African Americans in the United States will be diagnosed with colon cancer, which is the third most common cancer in both African American women and men. "Many people 50 and over do not know they are at risk and that they need to be tested," said Donald R. Henderson, M.D., M.P.H, American Cancer Society volunteer and Los Angeles area gastroenterologist. "If we can increase awareness and compliance to the level we've achieved with the Pap test for cervical cancer and the mammogram for breast cancer, we will have a tremendous opportunity to save thousands of lives through prevention and early detection of colon cancer."
The American Cancer Society estimates that 150,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 50,000 will die of the disease in 2009. More specifically, African American men and women are diagnosed with and die from colon cancer at a higher rate than any other U.S. racial or ethnic group.
One of the most powerful weapons in preventing colon cancer is regular colorectal cancer screening or testing. Regular colon cancer screening can, in many cases, prevent colon cancer altogether. Because most colon cancers start as polyps, which are non-cancerous growths in the lining of the colon or rectum it usually takes about 10 to 15 years for them to develop into colorectal cancer. Testing often finds these polyps, and allows them to be removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer.
Los Angeles area resident and colon cancer survivor Claudine Robinson urges people to get tested regularly. "Talk to your doctor and be honest, so you can catch a problem early," she said. "You have to be honest with yourself and talk about it because catching it early can save your life."
When colon cancer is detected at an early stage, patients have a more than 90-percent survival rate. Still fewer than four in 10 of these cancers are discovered at this stage. According to the American Cancer Society, increasing colon cancer testing among adults age 50 and over represents the single greatest opportunity to decrease colon cancer death rates in this country.
The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.