Joan Lang, Cancer Control Specialist from the Kentucky Cancer Program, was in studio Wednesday morning to talk to WPKY about Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

National Colon Cancer Awareness Month is during March and Joan wanted to bring more awareness to the importance of getting routine screenings. She reminded listeners that colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in Kentucky and that Kentucky is currently number five in the list of states with the most colon cancer deaths. She did say that at one point Kentucky was ranked first in colon cancer deaths, but increasing awareness of screenings and preventive changes is becoming more successful in lowering those deaths. Screenings have increased 30 percent in the last ten years in the Pennyrile Region alone. Colonoscopies can save lives, not only can they find cancerous polyps early, they can find and remove pre-cancerous polyps before they have a chance to become cancerous.

Joan mentioned that in 2014 the Surgeon General released a report listing cancer causing activities and for the first year it was noted that smoking can lead to colon cancer, among 11 other types of cancers previously reported. The report also stated that obesity is a leading cause of colon cancer, among 12 other types of cancers. She also mentioned that Kentucky is the sixth leading state in obesity, mainly due to unhealthy eating habits and limited options.

Joan then stressed routine screenings for colon cancer, stating that most people who are diagnosed don’t have a family history of the disease. However, those at higher risk, such as those with a family history, those who have an inflammatory bowel disease, or those who have experienced other cancers or are high risk of cancers, should be vigilant in receiving screenings. Those at higher risk should speak with their primary care providers about how often screenings need to happen. Joan also stated that for those who receive an all clear after their first screening and don’t have a history of the disease, routine screenings should happen every 10 years.

Joan also mentioned that for those unsure or uneasy about colonoscopies there are other options for screenings, such as take home stool sample kits that test for blood and cancer DNA. But the most accurate screening is still a colonoscopy.

Joan then told listeners that weight is the leading factor in colon cancer diagnoses and suggested a plant based and lean meat diet and exercise, as well as quitting smoking, as the best way to be preventive against the disease. She also stated that cancer is not a new disease, it’s been around for thousands of years, and scientists are still working on why and how the disease works to better prevent it in the future.

You can always visit cdc.gov/cancer or cancer.gov for reliable and in depth information about all types of cancers.

You can catch the full interview with Joan Lang below.

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