March is the time of the year when those age 50 and older are reminded about a cancer-screening test.
It's National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a good time to remind Mahoning Valley residents that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.
The colonoscopy, while not the most pleasant of all tests, can result in a 90 percent chance of surviving any early-stage cancer found during the test, according to the American Cancer Society.
Those are encouraging statistics, and physicians can remove potentially pre-cancerous polyps from the colon and rectum or get the patient quickly into treatment for any cancer that is found.
Those who wait for testing are playing a dangerous game. Cancers of the colon become more lethal when found later, and cancer that has spread from the colon to the lymph nodes before discovery and treatment has a cure rate of just 60 percent. If the cancer has spread to other organs by the time it is detected, the survival rate is less than 10 percent, according to some doctors.
The fact is that if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, as many as 60 percent of deaths from colon cancer could be avoided, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cutting down on the number of people who died from the disease simply is a matter of committing to take the test. If you're 50 or older or less than 50 but with a family history of polyps or a medical condition involving the colon, getting tested means a greater opportunity to survive.
The statistics are clear, yet only one in two people over age 50 or with history or conditions that should require colonoscopies on a regular basis have taken the test. Those who don't are risking their lives.
Don't wait for symptoms. Take preventive action, which includes increased physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, and have the test.
Your life depends on it.