Incident of cancer in Colorado have risen over the last couple of decades.
Colorado Department of Health and Environment reported 23,314 cases of cancer in 2016. The department recorded 16,808 cases in 2000, and each year since then the number has increased.
Chaffee County accounted for 121 reported cases in 2016, the most recent year for which the state health department has data posted.
The five most prevalent reported cases of new cancers in Colorado were cancer of:
Lung and bronchus: 2,347
Colon and rectum: 1,853
Melanomas of the skin: 1,290
In Chaffee County the number of new cases of those cancers were reported at:
Prostate: 20 cases
Breast: 12 cases
Colon and rectum: 11 cases
Lung and bronchus: 9 cases
Melanomas of the skin: 6 cases
Of those cancers, death rates for 2016 put lung and bronchus as No. 1 with 1,590 deaths statewide, colon and rectum second with 668 deaths and breast cancer third with 613 deaths.
Fatalities from pancreatic cancer came in fourth at 567, and prostate cancer was fifth at 511.
Early detection is key in successful treatment of some cancers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states.
Awareness of potential risk factors also comes into play when seeking to prevent cancer.
Screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer have been found to be beneficial in detecting disease early when the chance of being cured is high and the disease is easier to treat.
Breast cancer screening involves a mammogram, an X-ray of the breast. A mammogram can reveal cancer before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms and is easier to treat. CDC states regular mammograms can lower risk of dying for breast cancer.
For women who are at high risk for breast cancer, an MRI scan also can be used to screen for the disease.
Women are also encouraged to perform monthly self-examinations and periodic clinical examination of their breasts.
Symptoms include a new lump in the breast or armpit, thickening or swelling of part of the breast, irritation or dimpling of the breast skin, redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast, pulling in of the nipple or pain in nipple area, nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood, any change in the size or shape of the breast or pain in any area of the breast.
The CDC advises keeping in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer, but to see a doctor if signs and symptoms cause concern.
The main risk factors for breast cancer are getting older and being a woman, although other risk factors such as family history of breast cancer can elevate the risk.
Lung cancer screenings are suggested for those ages 55-80 who have a history of heavy smoking and who smoke now or who have quit within the past 15 years.
Heavy smoking is identified as a smoking history of 30 pack years (an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year) or more. A person smoking two packs a day for 15 years would be considered a heavy smoker.
Symptoms of lung cancer can include coughing that gets worse or doesn’t go away, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up blood, feeling very tired all the time and weight loss with no known cause.
These symptoms can occur with other illnesses as well, the CDC advises.
To mitigate risk of lung cancer CDC advises not smoking – cigarette smoking causes about 80-90 percent of lung cancer deaths in the United States.
Other mitigations include: avoiding secondhand smoke, testing for radon in the home and avoiding carcinogens at work.
While there is no standard test to screen for prostate cancer, two tests are commonly used.
The prostate-specific antigen test is a test that measures level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate and can be higher in men who have prostate cancer, although medications and other conditions can also elevate the level.
In case of an abnormal test result, the doctor may recommend a biopsy to check for prostate cancer.
The digital rectal exam test involves a health care provider inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate for anything abnormal, such as cancer. In 2018, however, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force stated it does not recommend the procedure because of lack of evidence about its benefits.
Symptoms that may be present with prostate cancer include: difficulty starting urination, weak or interrupted flow of urine, frequent urination – especially at night, difficulty emptying the bladder completely, pain or burning during urination, blood in urine or semen, pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away and painful ejaculation.
Any symptoms that cause worry should be mentioned to your doctor.
Risk factors for prostate cancer include: age – the older a man is, the greater the chance of getting prostate cancer; being an African-American man – increased likelihood of getting the disease; having a father, son or brother who had prostate cancer; men with two close relatives on the same side of the family who have had prostate cancer.
Screening for colorectal precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) or cancer is key to prevention.
Screening is recommended for those 50-75 years old, although some groups recommend starting at 45.
CDC data indicates about 90 percent of colorectal cases occur in people 50 years old or older.
Several kind of screening tests are available for colorectal polyps and cancer:
• Stool tests to detect blood and/or altered DNA in the stool are done once a year and samples can be collected at home and sent to a lab for testing.
• Flexible sigmoidoscopy involves the doctor inserting a short, thin, flexible lighted tube in the rectum so the doctor can detect polyps or cancer inside the rectum and lower third of the colon. The test is done every five years or 10 years with an annual stool test.
• Colonoscopy uses a longer thin, flexible lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer inside the rectum and the entire colon. During the test, the doctor can find and remove most polyps and some cancers. A colonoscopy is also used as a follow-up if anything is found in other screening tests. The test is usually performed every 10 years for those who do not have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
• CT colonography or virtual colonoscopy uses X-rays and computers to produce images of the entire colon, which are displayed on a computer screen for the doctor to analyze. It is done every five years.
According the CDC, colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, which is why screening for the disease is so important.
Symptoms that may show up include: blood in or on the stool (bowel movement), stomach pain, aches or cramps that don’t go away and losing weight without a known cause.
Although these symptoms may be something other than cancer, the only way to know what is causing them is to consult a physician.
Aside from age, risk factors include inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, a personal history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
Lifestyle factors such as lack of regular physical activity, a diet low in fruit and vegetables, a low fiber and high fat diet or a diet high in processed meats, overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption and tobacco use can also contribute to the development of the disease.
Melonoma – skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, the CDC reports.
The two most common, basal cell and squamous cell, are highly curable, although they can be disfiguring and expensive to treat.
The third most common skin cancer is melanoma, which is dangerous and causes the most deaths.
All three types are mostly caused by exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps.
While there are no standard screening method, there are things to look for.
Moles and other spots exhibiting changes can be a sign of melanoma.
The CDC recommends remembering the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:
A is for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
B stands for border. Is the border irregular of jagged?
C is for color. Is the color uneven?
D is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of pea?
E is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
Changes in the skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a change in an old growth or any of the A-B-C-D-E signs should be reported to a doctor.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with certain characteristics may be at a higher risk, including those with: a lighter natural skin color; skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily or becomes painful in the sun; blue or green eyes; blond or red hair; certain types and a large number of moles; a family history of skin cancer; and a personal history of skin cancer.
To reduce the risk of skin cancer, CDC recommends: limiting ultraviolet light exposure by staying in the shade, especially during midday hours; wearing clothing that covers arms and legs; wearing a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck; wearing sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) rays; using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection; and avoiding indoor tanning.
As with any health concern, consulting with a doctor is recommended for concerns relating to cancers of all types.