RENO, Nevada (KOLOTV.com) -- Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, claiming the lives of 53,000 Americans every year.
The Nevada Colon Cancer Partnership wants to educate the public about it, and on Sunday night, they held their inaugural “Strike Out Colon Cancer” campaign at Aces Stadium.
Cancer survivor Teresa Mentzer got a colonoscopy at the urging of her doctor.
"Doctors thought it was ok,” Mentzer explained, “They sent the samples to the lab and found cancer cells. They did surgery, took out eight inches of my colon and identified that there was no cancer cells."
Six years later, not only is she cancer free, she hopes to keep others that way. Mentzer is one of the fortunate ones. More than half of all colon cancer deaths could have been prevented.
"Probably say 33-34 thousand lives a year with proper screening," Dr. John Gray said.
Doctors saw an increase of patients coming for screenings last year, after the death of actress Farrah Fawcett. She died of anal cancer.
"Every time there a celebrity that has a cancer of the colon,” Dr. Gray explained, “A lot of people know that it is preventable, kind of gives them that small jab to get a colonoscopy. It is sad, but it does make a difference."
But Dr. Gray admits, fear can be a factor when it comes to people not getting checked.
"There is a fear factor and that's what we're trying to do with our efforts with the partnership,” Dr. Gray said, “Is try to reduce that fear factor."
The two most effective ways to detect cancer include a colonoscopy. That should be done starting at age 50, and every ten years from there. A patient could opt for a stool test, which needs to be done annually. However, if someone has a family history of colon cancer, the screenings should begin sooner.