March is national Colon Cancer Awareness Month and Cuyuna Regional Medical Center is trying to raise awareness of this potentially life-threatening disease. The medical campus entrance is lit blue, the color representing colon cancer, and employees wore blue to work on March 9.

According to the Colon Cancer Coalition, an estimated 2,320 Minnesotans will be diagnosed, and 790 Minnesotans may die from colorectal cancer in 2020. The American Cancer Society recommends that screening for this preventable cancer should begin at age 45 for adults with average risk. Screening should begin earlier for individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. In Minnesota the screening rate for colorectal cancer sits at 73.7%, increasing that by just one percentage point could mean an additional 10,000 Minnesotans would be screened, saving lives in the process.

Because there are often no symptoms when it is first developing, colorectal cancer can only be caught early through regular screening, said CRMC Surgeon Shawn Roberts, M.D.

“The benefits of early detection and treatment are dramatic,” said Roberts. “The possibility of curing patients after symptoms develop can be quite low, but if colorectal cancer is found and treated at an early stage, the opportunity to cure is almost 100%. Most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps. If we can find these polyps while they are still non-cancerous, we remove them, and the cancer may be prevented. Major surgery can usually be avoided, as well.”

In addition to timely and regular screening for colorectal cancer, Dr. Roberts said people may be able to lower their risk of getting the disease by avoiding foods that are high in fat; eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and other high-fiber foods; exercising regularly and maintaining a normal body weight; not smoking and drinking alcohol only in moderation.

For more information, contact your primary care provider. Call 218-546-7000 for an appointment with a CRMC physician.

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