Colon cancer screenings a must

This week, in recognition of National Colon Cancer awareness month, local physician Nitesh Ratnaker encouraged local residents to be screened for this potentially deadly disease.

Ratnaker suggested two questions related to colon health that every person should ask themselves, “to keep out of trouble:”

1. Are you up to date on your preventive tests?

2. Is there anything you should address to modify your lifestyle for better health?

“A 30-minute test once every 10 years is worth the effort,” he said. “Prevention is always better than looking for a cure.”

Symptoms of colon cancer, which may not always occur, include a change in bowel habits, persistent abdominal discomfort, rectal bleeding and weakness or fatigue, although these symptoms can be associated with many other health concerns.

Statistically, the American cancer Association notes 136,830 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 50,310 will die from the disease this year.

The ACA reports the average age of diagnosis is 72, as 90 percent of new cases and 95 percent of deaths from colon cancer occur in people 50 or older. However, colon cancer does not discriminate and can happen to men and women at any age.

Also of note, while rates for colon cancer in adults 50 and older have been declining, incidence rates in adults younger than 50 years has been increasing.

According to data gathered by the Colon Cancer Alliance, a nonprofit organization tasked with fighting colon cancer by funding research and providing patient support services, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 20, or 5 percent – although this varies widely according to individual risk factors, such as lifestyle choices, diet, certain conditions, genetic concerns, family history and age.

The CCA reports the survival rate for patients has been increasing since the 1980s because of an elevated commitment to awareness and regular screening.

Ratnaker’s efforts to remind our community should be praised. Most every life in Central West Virginia has been touched by cancer of some kind, and reminders such as these may mean the difference between life and death.