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Cancer of the colon or rectum (colorectal cancer) usually develops slowly, over several years. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

These numbers really hit home:

  • From 2008 to 2013, 315 cases of colon cancer were diagnosed at Altru Health System, affecting both females (51 percent) and males (49 percent).
  • Half of those diagnosed have stage III or IV colon cancer.
  • North Dakota’s colorectal cancer incident rate in 2010 was 45.3 (per 100,000), affecting 305 North Dakotans. The death rate was 17.4 (per 100,000), or 117 deaths.
  • Death rate in Minnesota in 2010 was 14 (per 100,000).

Still, there’s hope. Due to advancements in detection and treatment, colorectal cancer death rate has been dropping for more than 20 years. When detected early, it’s treatable. Colonoscopy is the best line of defense in reducing risk.

To schedule a screening colonoscopy, call 701.780.6533 or use MyChart.

Am I at Risk?

In North Dakota, 43 percent of adults ages 50-75 are not up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening. If individuals have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, regular screenings should happen earlier than age 50. For those with no family history, colonoscopies are recommended once a decade after age 50. They are covered by most insurance policies.

"I would tell everybody, if there's any kind of problem, just have it checked. The doctors were really comforting here. Early detection is key. I never in a million years would've thought I'd get colon cancer. That's for old people... well, I guess not anymore."

-Kristina Reuter, age 35, colon cancer survivor

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