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Colon test could save lives

March 26, 2001

Colon test could save lives



By Shana Ruff


March, the second annual colorectal cancer awareness month, has been dedicated to teaching people about this deadly, yet preventable disease.

Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, and yet it is also the most preventable and treatable cancer.

If caught in the early stages, it is 90 percent curable; unfortunately, if caught in the later stages, it is only 10 percent curable. 56,600 people died of colon cancer in 1999, and only 41 percent of Americans who have symptoms have ever been tested.

The American Cancer Society predicts there will be about 135,400 new cases of colorectal cancer in the year 2001.

The first sign of colon cancer is a polyp in the colon or rectum.

Everyday choices such as exercise, not smoking and not consuming large amounts of alcohol help to prevent colorectal cancer. Heredity also plays a big role in your likelihood of getting the disease. Ten percent of all colon cancer victims got the disease through their genes.

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You are also more susceptible to colon cancer if you are older than 50, but that does not mean if you are younger than 50 you should not be screened. There are many types of tests you can get to detect whether you have the disease, and save your life.

According to the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, the most effective test is a colonoscopy, which examines the entire colon. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years starting at the age of 50, but should be taken sooner if you have any of the risk factors.

My interest in colon cancer and the Research Alliance began when my idol, Katie Couric lost her husband, Jay Monahan, to colon cancer at the age of 47. Couric informed many people about the dangers of this disease, including me. Through my involvement, I learned how risk factors for colon cancer can be reduced and how important early detection is.

The first annual Rock-n-Race to fight colon cancer was held in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 8, 2000. My family and I participated in this inaugural event. The walk was followed by a celebration of life where many colorectal cancer survivors shared their stories. The survivors' stories moved me incredibly and inspired me to help join the fight.

The stories I heard prompted me to organize a benefit for the Research Alliance called Walk for Life. This 3.1-mile event will be Sunday, June 24, and will take place in the north end of Hagerstown. I have permits secured from the City of Hagerstown and am working on rounding up sponsors for the event.

I urge everyone, especially those over the age of 50, to get screened, whether it is for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month or just because you want to live your life to the fullest - and not be a victim of this silent killer.

Shana Ruff is a freshman at North Hagerstown High School. Send e-mail to her in care of lifestyle@herald-mail.com.

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