Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and as GTN's Mayci McLeod tells us, it's almost completely preventable.
UF Health Director of GI Oncology says starting preventative colon screenings at age 50 is the main way to avoid the disease. He says the typical screening is a colonoscopy.
Dr. Thomas George, Director of GI Oncology, says, "It's kind of a two for one--it not only can look in the colon and find cancer before it would otherwise be noticeable to a patient, so it can be found earlier when it's more curable-- but it can also find and remove the polyps. Polyps are in the colon and if left alone for too long can turn into the cancer."
He says patients are sometimes wary of the procedure, but says it's worth it if cancer is caught early.
Dr. George says, "It is sometimes a little taboo because no one likes to talk about bowel movements or the colon but it is something that is certainly very preventable and if we can get some of the stigma associated with it gone, then we should be able to make some significant prevention headway."
He says the preventative screenings are often covered by insurance.
"The new Affordable Care Act does require that insurers cover preventative services, like colonoscopy for patients as a part of healthcare plans moving forward. So we're starting to see more and more emphasis being placed on prevention and coverage for prevention services."
If colonoscopies are not covered under a patient's insurance, there are other screening options that may be covered. The Alachua County Health Department also offers the Screen for Life program which provides free colorectal cancer screenings to anyone who cannot afford it.