LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and the Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma are offering free screening kits.
Colon cancer is a very common cancer in the U.S. with around 95,000 new cases diagnosed every year and around 50,000 people die from it each year.
"We can diminish the risk of death by around 50 percent if we apply the screening methods that we have and if people participate, particularly those who are at high risk for colon cancer," said Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma oncologist and hematologist Dr. Nadim Nimeh.
Dr. Nimeh says colon cancer can be silent and most people never have symptoms until it reaches advanced stages.
"Once the individual develops symptoms, if we are going to wait until we develop symptoms, of pain, or blockage, or weight loss or any of that…I'm afraid it may be a little too late," Dr, Nimeh said.
That's why Dr. Nimeh urges the importance of screening. He says there are several ways to screen for the cancer with one being a colonoscopy, which looks at the colon from the beginning to end. Another type is a colonography, which is a CAT scan, making it a less invasive option.
Dr. Nimeh says another way to screen for the cancer is with three different types of stool sample tests. People who are considered at high risk are those who have a family history of colon cancer, people who have inflammatory bowel disease, people who have a genetic predisposition for the cancer, African Americans and smokers. He says those who have had a parent or sibling with the cancer should start being screened at least 10 years earlier than their family member was diagnosed with the cancer.
"(People with an average risk) should start getting colonoscopies or any of the screening methods they wish at the age of 50. If they do a colonoscopy and it's clear, they can wait another 10 years and do another one," Dr. Nimeh said.
Dr. Nimeh says there are things you can do to lessen your chances of getting the cancer, like not gaining weight and becoming obese, cutting down on fat in your diet and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, minimizing alcohol intake and not smoking.
"They need to know what their risks areas we talked earlier and act upon that and make sure they know exactly where they stand on these things and that will save lives," Dr. Nimeh said.
The Cancer Centers of Southwest Oklahoma in Lawton, Duncan and Altus are offering free colon cancer screening kits through the end of March. Visit any of the three locations to pick yours up or inquire about all of your screening options.
In other health news, if you are thinking about having bariatric surgery or have already had the procedure there will a support group meeting Thursday, March 3, at 4 p.m. in the Fieldstone Conference Room. You will hear about meal plans, recipes and how to manage life after the procedure. For more information, call 580-510-7042.