Colon cancer: Getting tested could save your life

Are you or is someone you care about 50 or older? Then it’s time to have that talk with your health care provider about getting tested for colon cancer.

Since it was formed in 1993, Health Sheboygan County has been working to fulfill its mission to improve the health of the people of Sheboygan County, leading to a community with “Everyone Living Better, Longer.” Learning the facts about colon cancer and getting tested is one of the ways to do that because it could perhaps save your life. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and would be the perfect time to take that step.

More than 90 percent of colon cancers are found in people age 50 and older. Because of that, HSC2020, along with the American Cancer Society, recommends that everyone 50 and older begin testing for colon cancer and be tested regularly. People who have colon cancer or colon polyps in their families should talk to their health care provider about possibly getting tested at an earlier age.
Although colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States, some colon cancers can be prevented with regular testing. But, many people are not getting the tests that could save their lives – often because they are worried the tests may be embarrassing or painful.

They are almost always neither. Some of the tests, including colonoscopy, can help doctors find polyps – small growths in the colon that can lead to cancer. Colonoscopy is often recommended because it looks at the entire colon and because, if a polyp is found, it can be removed during the procedure. Colonoscopy is done using sedation, so it is not painful. Stool tests are another option; these tests can be done in the privacy of your own home.

Don’t wait. Talk to your health care provider today and decide which colon cancer screening tests are right for you and how often you should have them. If colon cancer is found early, 90 percent of people will be treated successfully. But because many people are not getting tested, only 4 out of 10 cases are found at an early stage.

What else can you do to reduce your risk of colon cancer? Quit tobacco. Maintain a healthy body weight. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Limit the amount of red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and processed meat that you eat. Limit alcohol intake. Become or stay physically active.

To learn more about the steps you can take to stay well and find colon cancer early, talk to your health care provider or contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or

Mary O. Schueller is an oncology clinical nurse educator at St. Nicholas Hospital.