Cancer Care. An In Great Health eNewsletter.
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Thank you for subscribing to Cancer Care, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with useful information about cancer care and prevention. To learn more about our services and community events, or to find a physician, visit

To your health,

The Avera Staff


Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in America, yet it's highly preventable and treatable when detected early. If you are age 50 or older, make an appointment TODAY to get screened in March, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It's important for cancer patients and survivors to be screened.

Colorectal cancers typically begin as polyps in the colon or rectum that grow very slowly. Since it often takes 10 to 20 years for the polyps to become cancerous, early detection makes the cancer highly treatable.

Often people have no symptoms, so screenings are crucial for detection. Risk factors include age (50 or older), a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, a high-fat diet, smoking, heavy alcohol use, having diabetes, having inflammatory bowel disease and being overweight. Symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, pain with a bowel movement and fatigue, but many people have no symptoms.

Starting at age 50, people should have a colonoscopy , which examines the rectum and entire colon for polyps, and have one every 10 years, even if nothing is found. Other screenings should be done every five years. If your family has a history of colorectal cancer, you should have a colonoscopy every three to five years, beginning at least 10 years before the age when your relative was diagnosed. Talk to your health care provider for more information about when you should be screened.

To make an appointment for a colorectal cancer screening, call your local Avera facility.

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If you can't afford a cancer screening or your insurance doesn't cover it, ask your health care provider. Some state programs provide screenings for people who fall within certain income guidelines.

Several state-run programs provide funding for colorectal, prostate and breast cancer screenings. Some patients qualify for free screenings and don't even know it. Research has shown that men especially don't receive their health care screenings regularly.

"We want to increase participation in the state-run programs, and also we are taking care of men so we have an equally balanced program for men and women," says Charlene Berke, radiation oncology director at Avera Queen of Peace Cancer Center.

Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota have programs that provide free colorectal screenings for eligible participants. Mammogram funding also is available in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota . Some programs also fund screenings for diabetes and heart disease.

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In Great Health online archive.

Cancer Care is one in a series of Avera eNewsletters that gives readers valuable information about health and wellness at Avera facilities. It is not intended to replace personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from a physician.