As part of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, doctors are urging all Iowans over 50 years old, and anyone with a family history of the disease, to get screened. Dr. Mark Andrew, a surgeon at Hamilton Hospital in Webster City, says most cases of colorectal cancer develop very slowly.

Andrew says, “The great majority go through a polyp-to-cancer sequence, meaning, they start out as some variation of a colon polyp that then transitions over into a cancer and then moves on and becomes a full-fledged cancer.” Andrew says it may take ten to 15 years for colorectal cancer to develop, which is why screenings are recommended every ten years.

Andrew says it won’t just pop up in a year or two. “You may think it’s there all of the sudden but it’s probably been developing for quite some time before it become symptomatic,” he says. While the number of deaths from colorectal cancer has declined in the past few decades, 680 Iowans died from it in 2002 and about 30% of the deaths could have been prevented with early diagnosis.

Andrew says anyone over 50 should get screened for this disease. He says both men and women are at about the same risk of getting the disease while African-Americans are at a slightly higher risk than caucasians. Find more information online at “www.cancer.org“.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City