24 Apr The Cancer You Can Prevent
Screening can prevent colorectal cancer or catch the #2 cancer killer early when it’s highly treatable
Jon Reponen is a forester with the Bureau of Land Management Burns District, and a long-time wildland firefighter. He readily admits that had it not been for a family history of colorectal cancer, he probably would have avoided having the colonoscopy that may have saved his life.
“There’s a typical guy attitude when it comes to looking out for your health,” he said.
Reponen has a family history of the disease going back at least a couple of generations. He went in for his first colonoscopy at age 50.
“They discovered a polyp. It was removed, and I’ve had three colonoscopies since – all clear,” Reponen explained.
“But I always think, that could’ve been the one that caused cancer.”
General recommendations are to be screened regularly for colorectal cancer between the ages of 50 and 75. But Reponen’s case is a good reminder that knowing your family medical history is vital to your well-being — your primary care provider may recommend screening at age 40 or even younger.
Here’s what you should know:
• Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly form of cancer, behind lung cancer, but it doesn’t have to be.
• Screening can prevent the cancer or catch it early when it’s highly treatable.
• Everyone over the age of 50 should be screened for colorectal cancer (45 for African Americans and 40 for those with a family history).
• There are several different screening options. Some cost as little as $25 and all are covered by insurance.
• One in every three people are not up-to-date on screening for colorectal cancer. Only 59 percent of Oregonians are getting screened. By comparison, screening rates for breast and cervical cancer are at or over 75 percent.
• Colorectal cancer is often symptomless.
• Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally.
If you still think you can put off being screened, keep Reponen’s words in mind:
“To me getting screened is hugely important. I’m going to retire in a few years, and I want to be sure I’m around to spend time with my family.”
How do I get screened?
Getting a colonoscopy is a simple, same-day outpatient procedure, and you can do it right here in Harney County, at Harney District Hospital.
If you’re under age 50, your insurance will likely require a referral from your primary care provider to schedule the procedure. Call HDH Family Care at 541-573-2074.
If you’re age 50 or older, you can self-refer and directly schedule a colonoscopy by calling Surgical Services Coordinator Anna Sawyer at 541-573-8605.
Oregon Health Plan members are eligible for full coverage at any age.
Another option is do a fecal immunochemical test, or FIT test. It involves taking a stool sample to check for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of cancer. However, if blood is detected, a colonoscopy will be needed as a follow-up. Contact Kristy Reponen (541-573-8883) or Kelly Singhose (541-573-8874) for a home testing kit.
Research has found that people are most likely to get screened if they’re encouraged by someone they know and trust. So, if you’ve been screened, sharing your story could be critical to saving lives. Talk about your experience with people you know and encourage them to get screened, too. If you are interested in being featured in this campaign and making an impact on our community’s health, please contact Steve Howe at 541-573-4113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Cancer You Can Prevent” (www.thecanceryoucanprevent.org) is a public health campaign initiated by the Oregon Health Authority, and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.