This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Catching Colon Cancer Before It's Too Late

Avoiding an earlier than expected death from cancer is heavily dependent upon diagnosis. If cancer cells grow undetected in your body, it may be too late to do anything when they are finally discovered. Thus, there was good news reported recently in the New York Times about a new set of non-invasive tests for colon cancer that may help to raise the odds of early diagnosis and thus increase the chance of successful treatment.
Colorectal cancers tend to grow slowly and are easily removed if caught early. But many people over 50 do not comply with the recommendation to have a colonoscopy — a time-consuming procedure in which a tube is threaded up the intestine — and even colonoscopies do not catch everything. Colorectal cancer has become the second most common cancer in the United States; each year it causes more than 50,000 deaths and costs about $14 billion to treat.

Colon tumors provide considerable evidence of their presence by shedding blood and cells that are detectable in the stool. Tests for blood have reduced deaths from colorectal cancer only modestly, because they are not very sensitive to precancerous polyps, the stage at which cancer is best prevented.

The new tests being developed rely on measuring changes in DNA produced by cancerous cells and appear to be more effective than the stool sample tests currently being used.

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