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FOR RELEASE: March 3, 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives - Screen For Life

In Oklahoma, an estimated 2,010 new cases of colon and rectal cancer will be diagnosed and 780 Oklahomans will die as a result of colon and rectal cancer this year. Nationally, an estimated 56,290 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 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. If the cancer is found in the early stages, 90 percent of those diagnosed will live at least 5 years. However, only 39 percent of the colorectal cancers are found at an early stage.

“Like many cancers, the development of colorectal cancer can take several years, thus 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. And if found early, colorectal cancer can be treated more effectively.”

In the early stages of colorectal cancer, 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 factors for colorectal cancer include age (over 50) and an individual or family history of colorectal cancer. Polyps or inflammatory bowel disease may increase risk. Also, smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, physical inactivity, and a diet high in fat and low in fiber may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

The American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following screening options beginning at age 50 for men and women who are at average risk for developing colorectal cancer: fecal occult blood test annually, flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years, colonoscopy every 10 years, or double contrast barium enema every five years. A digital rectal exam may be part of a standard examination, however it should not replace any of the previously mentioned tests.

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

To learn about colorectal cancer testing, diagnosis, 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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