NEW ORLEANS - The number of people with colorectal cancer in Louisiana is 25 percent higher than the national average, and the number of people who lose the battle with the disease is 17 percent higher.
Doctors say part of the problem in Louisiana is education.
They say too many people have lost their lives because they were too embarrassed to have a colon screening.
"We have a much higher incidence of later presentation of cancers, meaning Stage III and Stage IV disease, across the board of all ages, in colon and rectal cancers," said Dr. Guy Orangio, an LSU Health Sciences Center colorectal surgeon. He said the LSU Tumor Registry gathered the data that show all these statistics.
Too many people put off getting that first screening colonoscopy at 50, and every 10 years after that, because they think it's unpleasant and embarrassing.
"It's a shame that people don't realize today that it is so accessible, that the sedation method is so much easier on them, and the prep is what it is," said Dr. Orangio.
"Screening means that you're going to go get checked even if you don't have any symptoms," explained Dr. Douglas K. Rex, who is board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology. "Colonoscopy, the real power of it is that it's just tremendous. There's nothing that matches it to detect polyps, first of all, but it also allows us, at the same time, to remove polyps."
Dr. Rex is professor of medicine and director of endoscopy in the Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Indiana University Medical Center, and the past president of the American College of Gastroenterology.
While most people should get their first colorectal screening at the age of 50, if you've had a relative who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you need to get your screening 10 years before the age that your relative was diagnosed.
Doctors say those with family history, or previous polyps, will need to be screened more frequently. And they say symptoms should never be ignored.
"They always attribute rectal bleeding to hemorrhoids and they ignore the symptoms. And as they ignore the symptoms, the disease becomes a later later later stage," said Dr. Orangio, who says this is very common in the African-American local community.
Eating a diet high in plant based foods, and less of red meat, and getting enough vitamin D and calcium, can lower your risk of getting colon cancer.
For more on screenings and prevention of colon cancer.
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