Colon Cancer & Survival

July 6, 2011 by staff 

Colon Cancer & Survival, Colon cancer deaths are falling in the U.S. – But not in Mississippi. “I’m not surprised in the least,” said Dr. Christopher Lahr, associate professor and colorectal surgeon at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “The severity of colon cancer we see in this state is much higher.”

In some New England states, death rates fell to around 6 percent, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday. The Magnolia State, however, saw no real change.

CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden said the increase in screenings around the country have helped reduce the death rate from colon cancer, which remains killer among nonsmokers. About 49,000 Americans will die from colon cancer this year, estimates the American Cancer Society.

From 2003 to 2007, colon and rectum cancer death rate in the U.S. was reduced from 19 to 17 per 100,000 people. That represents about 32,000 fewer deaths, CDC.

Kentucky and West Virginia had the highest rates in 2003, tied at about 21 deaths per 100,000 people. Mississippi and Delaware were the following with 20.

While Kentucky, West Virginia and Delaware, all saw drops of around 2 to 3 percent, the number of Mississippi did not move, authorities said.

“We capture a much later stage,” said Lahr. “If caught early, the survival rate is 90 to 95 percent. In the last stage, which is almost impossible to cure.”

Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients already suffering symptoms such as bleeding or obstruction before the cancer is found, he said.

If cancer is detected early, most do not need chemotherapy, he said.

“This is not just tell the doctors more patients to get colonoscopies,” said Dr. Luke Lampton of Magnolia, chairman of the State Health Board. “The newspapers, civic organizations and churches should also reach and stress to our people the need for testing. The tragedy of the death of any colon cancer is colon cancer is highly treatable disease if caught early and easily detectable with a colonoscopy. ”
If the cancer spreads to lymph nodes, the survival rate drops to 40 to 50 percent, Lahr said. If the cancer spreads to the liver, the rate is 10 to 20 percent, he said.

Nationally, almost two thirds of people 50 to 75 are receiving recommended tests. However, Mississippi had one of the nation’s rates of detection, 58 percent.

State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier said that all the people of Mississippi should be screened for colon cancer starting at age 50 with a colonoscopy or a fecal blood test. Where colon cancer in the immediate family, screening should start earlier.

About a fifth of all colon cancer is hereditary, Lahr said. “And each generation sees the cancer at a younger age.”

The good news is that during a colonoscopy, polyps can be removed, he said. “Almost all colon cancers begin as polyps.”

Access to care is a key problem, he said. Mississippi has a large number of uninsured and low ratios of doctors to patients.

Mississippi also has the largest black population of the country, and research shows African-Americans die of colon cancer at higher rates than other racial groups.

Currier said increased the risk factors are smoking and obesity. People exposed to secondhand smoke are also at greater risk, he said.

The Department of Health offers a toll-free 1-800-QUIT NOW to help stop Mississippi, said.

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