MADISON (WKOW) -- Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the country, and this month serves as a reminder to get tested.
March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and in Wisconsin, more than 2,800 people are diagnosed with it each year, and about 1,000 will die of the disease.
Dr. Gary Griglione, a Meriter gastroenterologist, says many of these deaths could have been prevented with a colonoscopy, a screening test proven to significantly reduce America's risk for colon cancer. And although colonoscopies are a major part of prevention, there are still many misperceptions about them, including the idea that people who are not at high risk don't need one.
According to Griglione, new guidelines state that people at average risk of developing colorectal cancer should get screened starting at age 50, whereas people at high risk, those with inflammatory bowel disease or a personal or family history of the disease, should get screened starting at age 40 or earlier.
"You may not need another screening for 10 years if nothing is found, but it's critical for people to come in and get that first screening," Dr. Griglione said.
Another common misperception is that if something is found, it's bad news. But Dr. Griglione says that's not the case. He says most colon cancers start as non-cancerous growths called polyps, that are found in approximately 30 percent of colonoscopies performed at age 50. He says those polyps are removed during the colonoscopy.
"So we are actually preventing cancer from developing," Dr. Griglione said.