SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- An interview with Roberta Cahill, Yankton Sioux and
American Cancer Society Health Initiatives coordinator, in South Dakota.
Charlotte Hofer: Roberta, let's start with cancer rates in general among
American Indians. How serious a problem is cancer?
Roberta Cahill: American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to have the
poorest survival from all cancers combined than any other racial group.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death among American Indians and
Alaska Natives over the age of 45.
Hofer: What is colon cancer?
Cahill: Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the
second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Colon cancer almost always
develops from precancerous changes or growths in the lining of the colon
Hofer: Can colon cancer be prevented?
Cahill: Yes! Colon cancer testing can find and remove polyps before they
turn into cancer, preventing the disease from ever occurring. And even if
cancer is found, when detected early, colon cancer has a 90 percent
In fact, the number of colon cancer deaths could be cut in half if
Americans followed the American Cancer Society's recommendations for early
detection. Beginning at age 50, men and women should talk to their
physicians about getting tested for colon cancer.
Hofer: What are some tests used to detect colon cancer?
Cahill: There are several different types of colon cancer testing. Talk
with your doctor to determine which test is right for you.
Hofer: Where can I find information on colon cancer testing?
Cahill: The American Cancer Society offers a free information kit on colon
cancer that can answer questions about the tests and can help people talk
about testing with their doctors. Call toll-free, (800) ACS-2345, or visit
our Web site at www.cancer.org to request an information kit.
Hofer: What are some of the risk factors associated with colon cancer?
Cahill: Age is the No. 1 risk factor for colon cancer. More than 90 percent
of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in men and women older than 50. Certain
behaviors increase colon cancer risk, such as smoking or use of other
tobacco products, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, obesity, and a
diet high in fat or low in fruits and vegetables. A family history of colon
cancer can increase your risk as well.
Hofer: What about women -- is colon cancer something women should be
Cahill: Absolutely. People think of it as a man's disease, but colon cancer
kills more women than ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers combined.
Hofer: What are the signs of colon cancer?
Cahill: Early colon cancer usually has no symptoms. Signs and symptoms
typically occur only when the cancer is more advanced. The absence of
symptoms should never be a reason to delay or ignore colon cancer testing.
Hofer: What is the American Cancer Society doing in the month of March for
National Colon Cancer Awareness Month?
Cahill: This March is the seventh annual National Colon Cancer Awareness
Month. During this month, and throughout the year, the American Cancer
Society is raising awareness that colon cancer can be prevented.
If we can get people to view colon cancer testing as important as they view
Pap tests and mammograms, we will make great progress toward preventing
colon cancer diagnoses and saving lives.
Hofer: What can the American Cancer Society do to help those who have
already been diagnosed with colon cancer?
Cahill: If you know someone who has been diagnosed with colon cancer, the
society can help. We have American Cancer Society "navigators" who are
trained professionals available to provide information about the diagnosis,
treatment options, and how to communicate better with your doctor.
Navigators can connect you to information, resources and support available
in your community.
To find your "navigator," call (800) ACS-2345 and ask for the navigator
serving your community.
Hofer: Does insurance cover testing for colon cancer?
Cahill: Most health insurance plans do cover some forms of colon cancer
tests, but may not cover the full range of options recommended by the
society. People should contact their personal health insurance carrier for
Medicare coverage includes the full range of tests for colon cancer for
people age 50 and older who are at higher risk. For people with Medicaid,
coverage varies from state to state, so ask your provider for the specifics
of what is covered.
Hofer: Access to health care is a problem for many American Indians, isn't
Cahill: Yes, unfortunately. Twenty-seven percent of all American Indians
are without health insurance coverage. But the American Cancer Society can
help. We have many services to meet the needs of American Indians and the
medically underserved. For more information, call the American Cancer
Society at (800) ACS-2345 or visit our Web site at www.cancer.org.
Hofer: What is the most important thing we should remember about colon
Cahill: Colon cancer can be prevented. If you are 50 or older, talk to your
doctor about getting tested for colon cancer. It could save your life.
Colon cancer: Get the facts
What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer almost always develops from precancerous changes or growths in
the lining of the colon called polyps. Colon cancer can be prevented if
precancerous polyps are found and removed.
* March 2006 marks the seventh annual National Colon Cancer Awareness
* In 2005, the American Cancer Society estimated more than 145,000
Americans would be diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 55,000 would
* Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United
* More than 90 percent of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in men and women
older than 50.
* The survival rate is 90 percent when colon cancer is found in its early
* Only 39 percent of colon cancers are detected at an early stage.
* Colon cancer usually has no symptoms in its early stages.
* Colon cancer kills more women than ovarian, uterine and cervical cancers
* Blacks have the highest colon cancer incidence and death rates of any
racial or ethnic group in the United States.
* Hispanics are less likely to get tested for colon cancer than any other
racial or ethnic group.
* The American Cancer Society is currently funding 101 colon cancer
research grants nationwide totaling more than $50 million.
* Many insurance plans and Medicare assist in paying for colon cancer
* Age -- Men and women age 50 and older are at risk for colon cancer.
* Family history -- A personal or family history of colon cancer, polyps,
or inflammatory bowel disease of significant duration increases colon
* Genetic factors -- Certain genetic factors increase colon cancer risk,
including familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Gardner's syndrome,
heredity non-polyposis colon cancer, and being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
* Behavior -- Certain behavioral factors increase colon cancer risk:
* Alcohol consumption
* Physical inactivity
* Diet high in fat and/or red meat
* Diet low in fruits and vegetables