Nebraskans have higher than average colon cancer rates

Local4 News at 5
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 10:29 AM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - March is colon cancer awareness month and there are some figures Nebraskans need to take note of. Health officials say colon cancer is the second leading cancer diagnosis and second leading cancer-related death. According to a study from the CDC, the national rate for colon cancer is 37.7 per 100,000.

As a state, Nebraska has a slightly higher rate at 41.9. As a region, Buffalo County has the highest rate at 45.8, Hall County is slightly below at 44.1, while Adams County is 44 per 100,000.

“Some of the things that contribute to that is diet and exercise,” said Dr. Zachary Frey, Medical Doctor at Hastings Family Care. “Healthy living does help with preventing colon cancer and then getting screened. So we know places that have a high screening rate have a lower risk of developing colon cancer because that screening can actually prevent you from getting the cancer altogether.”

Frey said because colon cancer is being seen in people at a younger age, the CDC moved the screening guidelines from age 50 to 45.

“These screenings are important because they can actually prevent you from getting the cancer altogether,” said Frey. “You know I just encourage everybody to go talk with their primary provider about it because the experience of getting a colonoscopy or getting colon cancer screening typically is not nearly as bad as most people think. It usually takes only about 20 minutes or so.”

Frey said patients are asleep during the process and typically insurance providers cover the entire cost. Adding, to solve this issue Nebraskans could use a break from a heavy meat diet.

“We are a state and an area that has more meat, and not to say that’s bad,” said Frey. “Part of a healthy diet is vegetables and fiber and so we would want patients to know that definitely increasing the vegetables and fiber in their diet can be helpful for colon health.”

Frey said it’s never too early to invest in your colon health. Adding, if colon cancer is in your family history getting screened earlier than the recommended 45 years old could be advised.

“We know people who have a family member who has had colon cancer, definitely those people are more at risk because of that family history,” said Frey. “So we typically recommend getting screened for colon cancer a little bit early and typically the rule of thumb is about 10 years prior to when that family member was diagnosed.”

Frey said colon cancer typically starts as palms between five to ten years prior to developing into cancer.