March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and advocates want more Hoosiers to get screened for the disease.
According to an American Cancer Society report using data from 2006 to 2008, roughly 57% of Hoosiers 50 or older had some type of colorectal cancer test done. But more than 1,100 residents are expected to die from the disease this year. That makes Indiana’s rank 37th among all states.
The report also found more men will get colon cancer and die from it than women in the state.
Vicki Rakowski with the Cancer Society’s Great Lakes Division said testing is important because doctors can find and treat the disease as early as possible. It also allows for prevention.
“If we see a polyp, we can remove that polyp before it turns into a cancer and I can’t think of a better thing than to encourage people about saving lives, preventing the disease and saving more lives.”
She said when detected early, colorectal cancer has a 90-percent survival rate, but too many people wait too long.
“They are not experiencing any symptoms so they say, oh, I didn’t have a problem when actually it’s a hidden disease. By the time you experience symptoms, it’s often too late.”
Rakowski said Indiana gets an A grade when it comes to insurance coverage for colorectal cancer tests.
“Because it mandates it, but left it open for appropriate testing. We didn’t have a piece of legislation that says everyone should get X-test. It was about everyone getting good colorectal cancer screening.”
Experts say improving eating habits, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol and giving up tobacco are the best things you can do to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Information about the different types of tests, including a home test kit, is online at www.cancer.org.