NASHVILLE - March is national Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, and this year in Tennessee several thousand new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed.
Hundreds of cases will be fatal, even though colon cancer is very treatable when caught early, according to Dr. Paul Amundson.
"What we are really trying to do is raise the awareness," Amundson said, "because it is an extremely common condition that is surprisingly very easy for us to prevent through regular colon cancer screenings."
The American Cancer Society suggests that both men and women start to follow a testing schedule when they reach age 50.
Amundson said the focus on increasing the screening rates for colorectal cancer is an important goal because - as he knows firsthand - finding problems early is vital.
"Get your colonoscopy like I did last fall," he said. "They found a real small polyp that in five or 10 years had a chance to become cancerous. When you eliminate those, you really truly prevent a non-cancerous growth from becoming cancerous."
When colorectal cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, nine out of 10 people live at least another five years. However, that survival rate drops substantially if the cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes before it has been discovered.
Risk factors include family history, ethnic background, poor diet, smoking, drinking, lack of exercise and advanced age.
More information is available at www.cdc.gov.