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FOR RELEASE: March 30, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives - Screen For Life

In Oklahoma, an estimated 2,000 new cases of colon and rectal cancer will be diagnosed and 800 Oklahomans will die as a result of colon and rectal cancer this year. Nationally, an estimated 57,000 people will die from colorectal cancer this year. In an effort to help save lives, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) officials want to remind the public, especially people age 50 and older, that early screening and early diagnosis of colorectal cancer can save lives. According to health officials, more than 90 percent of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over age 50.

“It is estimated that if everyone age 50 or older received regular colorectal cancer screenings, at least one-third of the deaths would be prevented. Like many cancers, the development of colorectal cancer can take many years and screening is an important tool to help with early detection and treatment of the disease, “ said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher.

“Getting screened for colorectal cancer can help by finding polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Also, early screening helps find colorectal cancer so it can be treated more effectively,” Crutcher said.

In the early stages, there are usually no symptoms. In the later stages, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, change in bowel habits, and cramping pain in the lower abdomen may occur.

The primary risk factor for colorectal cancer is age, personal or family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or inflammatory bowel disease may increase risk. Also, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, physical inactivity, high fat and low fiber diet may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

Beginning at age 50, men and women who are at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have one of the following: fecal occult blood test annually, flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, colonoscopy, or double contrast barium enema. A digital rectal examination should be done at the same time as the other tests.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services (CMS) offer educational materials to promote the need for early and regular colorectal screening through “Screen for Life.” To order materials, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/screenforlife/ or call 1-888-842-6355.

To learn about colorectal cancer testing, diagnoses, and treatment, call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or call the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at 405/271-4072.

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