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“Screen Play” Can Stop Colon Cancer, Say WI Docs and Survivors

March 11, 2008

Madison, WI – Wisconsinites could stop colon cancer in its tracks, or even keep it from happening, with a common test. According to a new American Cancer Society study, family doctors can make a big difference by encouraging patients to take that test and be screened for colon cancer at age 50, or earlier if they have a family history of the disease. The study is being publicized during the current Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

However, it seems that many people don't go in for the test because they're afraid of getting bad news. Dr. Karen Kultgen at ProHealth Care Medical Centers, Hartland, says it's GOOD news that you can get an early warning.

"If you find colon cancer early, even if it already has developed as a cancer but has not invaded the surrounding area, the survival rate is on the order of 90 percent."

She says the test also can detect pre-cancerous polyps. When they're removed, that stops cancer before it can start.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 3,000 Wisconsinites will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and about 900 will die because of it. The study also finds that lack of health coverage prevents some people from getting tested.

Robert Webster of Delafield is a colon cancer survivor. He had a family history of the disease, and he says getting an early colon cancer screening would have saved him a lot of trouble.

"If I had had a colonoscopy 10 years prior to the time that my grandmother had had colon cancer, it would have been caught early enough that it wouldn't have been a problem for me."

Kultgen makes sure her patients are getting screened.

"When they hit the age of 50, I tell 'em it's their 50th birthday present to themselves: to get their colon cancer screening."

The study is in the March 15 edition of the journal "Cancer."

Rob Ferrett/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - WI