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Tackling Colon Cancer in South Dakota

March 12, 2007

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and the American Cancer Society is encouraging both men and women age 50 and older who smoke or drink alcohol, who are obese and inactive, or who have a family history of cancer or benign polyps to get screened. Mitchell oncologist Dr. Michael Peterson says anyone falling into those risk categories should be talking with their doctor about a colonoscopy or stool blood test. He says colon cancer is very curable in the early stages before it spreads to the lymph nodes.

"Most colon cancers start out in polyps, which are benign growths. These polyps can be seen at colonoscopy and removed. And therefore, these polyps, which if you let them go would grow into cancer, never have a chance to become cancers."

According to Denise Burggraff with the American Cancer Society in South Dakota, colon cancer deaths could be cut in half with early screening.

"In South Dakota we expect about 470 men and women to be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, and more than 160 are expected to die from the disease. It's a pretty serious illness, but it can be prevented."

The American Cancer Society is also rolling out a new campaign this month focusing on diet called the "Great American Health Challenge." It can be accessed on line at"> You can take a risk assessment on the Web site that will tell you which screenings are eligible, but it will also ask you questions about your physical activity, about your diet and make recommendations to decrease your risk of colon cancer.

The American Cancer Society says the five-year colon cancer survival rate is 90 percent for individuals who find and treat the disease early. Dr. Peterson encourages South Dakota residents to contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 if they questions about colon cancer.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD