Great Plains Health campaigns for colon cancer screening

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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) – During the month of March, the Nebraska Cancer Coalition and the Great Plains Colon Cancer Task Force promote a campaign that emphasizes the importance of preventative screenings colon cancer. Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the country.

The stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis strongly affects the prognosis of patients with colorectal cancer. Regular colonoscopies every 10 years can detect non-cancerous growths and remove them before they turn cancerous.

“We identified this in the 1980s,” said Dr. Todd E. Hlavaty, medical director of Callahan Cancer Center and member of the Nebraska Cancer Coalition board of directors. “In 1985 an aggressive screening program was put in place and it dramatically reduced the number of deaths.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed cancer screenings for many Americans. An estimated 1.7 million missed colonoscopies in 2020. Experts believe this could lead to thousands more deaths from colorectal cancer over the next decade.

“There was a 35% decrease in screening,” Dr. Hlavaty said. “Locally, we’ve seen the same trends nationally. Now we see aggressive cancers or advanced stages of cancers that are not curable. We are catching up in the game. The game is bringing patients in earlier, so we can catch it earlier.

Colon cancer appears in young adults. Originally, people aged fifty and over were recommended to get tested. Due to the increase in colon cancer cases in young adults, the recommended age for screening has been changed to forty-five.

“Screening helps us save patients,” Dr. Hlavaty said. “There’s an old saying, ‘help me, help yourself.’ As doctors, we try to take care of patients, we need to find cancers earlier, to make sure they are curable.

Compared to other states, Nebraska is ranked 29th in testing rates. Rural communities are concerned because people are not getting screened early enough to detect cancers and get better results.

“For the herder who is trying to round up his cattle and forget about his health, we need to bring him in,” Dr Hlavaty said. “We have to give him a chance.”

In 2022, the American Cancer Society estimates 151,030 new cases of colon cancer in the United States and 960 new cases in Nebraska. From there, the ACS estimates 52,580 colon cancer deaths nationwide and 320 in Nebraska.

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