A South Dakota program is being credited for potentially saving 139 lives. GetScreenedSD started two years ago. It encourages everyone 50 years of age and older to get screened for colorectal cancer. And it even helps some people pay for the tests
Bonnie Anderson's grandchildren hold a special place in her heart. Not only does she help baby sit, but she has pictures of her loved ones all over her home.
"Just being around her makes my day. I can be so sad, but seeing her face, that sadness is gone and she just cheers me up," Anderson said.
Her family was a major reason Anderson decided to get screened for colorectal cancer. She picked up a screening test from her doctor through the GetScreenedSD program and sent it back for testing. The test revealed there was a problem. A colonoscopy confirmed Anderson had colon cancer.
"It was like my whole life flashed in front of me. I was so scared," Anderson said.
Anderson is not alone. Since GetScreenedSD started two years ago, two patients were diagnosed with cancer, and 139 people had polyps removed, potentially preventing colon cancer.
"GetScreenedSD wants to screen 80 percent of the people 50 to 74-years-old by the year 2014. So, we're really on track. They're getting more facilities and more providers on," Falls Community Health Laboratory Director Rick Pudwill said.
The tests are so important because colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the country. But at least 60 percent of those deaths could have been prevented if everyone over the age of 50 had regular screening tests.
"Sometimes, by the time the symptoms are there, it's too late. That's why it's good to get it done ahead of time," Pudwill said.
Anderson is now cancer-free, after having surgery to remove part of her colon. She says she treasures life even more now. Doctors told her if she would have waited six more months, she probably wouldn't have made it.
"If I wouldn't have done the test, I couldn't have been able to see them grown up and have kids of their own," Anderson said.
That's why Anderson encourages everyone 50 and older to get screened.
To be eligible for Get Screened SD, you have to be ages 50 to 74 and meet government income guidelines. You are not eligible if you have symptoms of colon cancer, a family history of the disease, or have had a colonoscopy. If you do not meet the guidelines but would like a test, you can have one done by paying a small fee.
To pick up a test, ask your doctor.
For more information on GetScreenedSD or colon cancer and screening guidelines, contact the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org