ANTHC celebrates colon cancer month


by Derek Smith

ANCHORAGE,Ak--     Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium says Colorectal cancer is the leading cause of new cases of cancer among Alaska Native people, but it doesn't necessarily have to be. 

"It's a long lead time before it actually becomes a cancer, so we try to do activities that stop cancer before is even progresses," Diana Redwood, PR for Alaska Native Epidemiology says. 
Screening can stop colon cancer by the early detection of small cancerous spots called polyps.  
"It's important because we are not only preventing cancer by removing those precancerous polyps, but also detecting cancers early when they are most treatable," Claudia Christensen, a nurse practitioner from ANTHC says. 
Sixty-one percent of Alaskan Natives are now receiving screening. That's a huge difference compared to when they first started, which was in the single digits. They say the increase in numbers is inspiring because spreading awareness during March seems to be working. 
 "Because of a lot of awareness to encourage people to have access and I think it's made an impact and continue to make an impact on the rates of cancer that we see," Christensen says. 
But their job isn't complete. While sixty-one percent is an improvement, the Consortium says that number is much lower than that of the percentage of breast cancer screening.
"Something we are really encouraging all Alaskans who are over 50 to get screened or know someone over 50, to get screens. It's really a family and community event.," Redwood says. 
Yeah, you might feel fine. But experts say there are no symptoms. It's better to be safe than sorry.