Colon Cancer rates in TN rank higher than national average.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn (WDEF) – It’s a growing health issue.

Doctors across the country are diagnosing more and more people with colon cancer.

In fact, colon cancer is now ranked in the top 5 for most common cancer in men ——and women. 

The US preventative task force now suggests colon cancer screenings should  start at a younger age than first advised.

“The U.S. preventative task force said we would like to lower the age for the first screening colonoscopy for those of average risk. It means you don’t have colon cancer in your family or polyps. But for average risk we would like to start at the age of 45 regardless of gender or race,” says Dr. Dr. Shauna Lorenzo-Rivero, Colorectal surgeon and Chairman of the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation.

Dr. Lorenzo-Rivero and the Greater Chattanooga Colon Cancer Foundation said the age change is very important-especially for our area. Right now, Chattanooga has some of the highest rates of colon cancer when compared to the rest of the country.

 “For the nation we divide into 25 percentiles. We are in the group that is most likely to have colon cancer. The reason we think that happens is because we are the lowest group to get your colonoscopy or your screening,” says Dr. Lorenzo-Rivero.

Health Experts say it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to cancer prevention since screenings detect polyps before they turn into cancer. 

“Colon cancer is 99.9% preventable. It is preventable, it is treatable and therefore it is beatable. If you miss your opportunity and that polyp is too large for a colonoscopy to remove then we are talking about surgery. If the tumor has spread into the lymph nodes then it’s surgery plus chemotherapy and sometimes radiation,” says says Dr. Lorenzo-Rivero.

Health officials say that most insurance companies have some catching up to do when it comes to covering the cost of the screenings for younger people. But the foundation is working to bridge that gap in order to help save lives. 

 “Even if you don’t have insurance. Insurance is important if you are going to have a medical procedure. We will help you find assistance and be able to get folks who don’t have insurance to get their colonoscopy if they meet criteria,” says says Dr. Lorenzo-Rivero.

For more information on how you can protect yourself from this preventable disease, click here

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