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Getting a colonoscopy could save your life

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Colon cancer is well-known for its muted symptoms. So much so, that the sufferer may not even notice they have the disease until a tumour is fully formed. This being the case, many find that, by the point of diagnosis, it is simply too late to overcome the illness.

However, the survival rate for the cancer if caught in its early stages is very good. According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, as quoted by About, 93% of those diagnosed at Stage 1 make a full recovery. Even at Stage 3, the patient has a half and half chance of survival.

Despite this, the disease, also known as colorectal cancer, claimed over 50,000 American lives in 2006, according to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mary Bearden, writing for the Jackson Sun, says she managed to get screened for everything else over the years but not for colon cancer “(perhaps) thinking that ’colon cancer just couldn’t happen to me’“.

When she finally had a colonoscopy aged 63, doctors found Stage 4 cancer, for which the survival rate is around 8%. If she had been one of the 39% who was diagnosed earlier, her chances may have been cosiderably higher. Mary continues with her battle but has taken it upon herself to emphasise the importance of easily available screening in combating the condition.

As if in response, KSN announced today that 2,500 free colon cancer test kits are to be given out in south-central Kansas. The initiative, funded by the American Cancer Society and other partners, will make the non-invasive fecal occult blood tests available to those over the age of 50 with a family history of the condition.

Dr. Ferris, writing for Carolina Weekly, adds: “Average-risk patients should have a first colonoscopy (available at your doctor’s) at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter, unless pre-cancerous polyps are found, new symptoms develop or the family history changes during the 10-year interval.“

Some symptoms to look out for include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, abdonimal pain or bowel obstruction.

Sharon Osbourne and Teddy Pendergrass are among celebrities who have been diagnosed with colon cancer.

Images: Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Radiation_proctitis2.jpg, Attribution: Tdvorak

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