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Local doctors say research shows the importance of cancer screenings

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - February is National Cancer Prevention Month, a reminder of the importance of medical screenings.

Local doctors report that medical screenings identify disease before symptoms appear.

Dr. Laurie Logan, a Family Physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, said early detection allows treatment at a time when the disease may be more responsive.

Logan said breast, colorectal, lung, and cervical cancer are among those identifiable in early stages.

"Obviously, someone is going to have sleepless nights if they find out they have cancer, but I think once treatment is completed, especially for something that is caught early at a screening test, it will just be a bump in the road, and they can move on with their life," said Logan.

Logan said most screening tests are covered by health insurance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest women get a mammogram around the age of 40. Women aged 45 to 49 years should get mammograms every year.

The CDC suggests men and women who are 50 years old or older should get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. Colorectal screenings help find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths), so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

Brenda Rooney, Epidemiologist at Gundersen Health System, said patients who have precancerous polyps and get screened early, have a 90 percent survival rate. If polyps are found late, the survival rate lowers to 15 percent.

"The message today is cancer is not a death sentence. Just because you may have an early stage of cancer, it doesn't mean you are going to die. The earlier we catch it, the better your chance of fighting cancer and winning is high," said Rooney.

Rooney said her research shows that over 80 percent of Gundersen's patients are up to date on their cancer screenings, which she said is a great thing, but would like that number to go up to 100 percent.

Dr. Kurt Oettel, Cancer Center Director at Gundersen Health System, said patients should view cancer screenings as a positive, not something scary.

"Cancer screening should be discussed between doctor and patient," Oettel said. "A patient's doctor should explain the benefits of screening and understand a patient's possible fears of screenings. If cancer is found, the proper treatment should start right away. We know that survival is significantly greater for patients who get screened versus patients who don't get screened."

To learn more about cancer screenings, visit here.

Lindsey Ford

Lindsey Ford is a multi-media journalist.

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