Colon cancer survivor says 'F' grade is unacceptable - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Colon cancer survivor says 'F' grade is unacceptable

Colby Robertson

WAUSAU (WAOW) -- This colon cancer survivor speaks out on Wisconsin's failing grade as the American Cancer Society says the state isn't doing enough to detect the cancer early.

In it's annual report on colorectal cancer, the society says the state lacks important legislation requiring insurance companies pay for screenings. That means many are skipping life saving tests.

Last year 900 Wisconsinites died from colon cancer. 2,770 were newly diagnosed. If caught early 90% of colorectal cancer patients will survive at least 5 years.

It's a cancer that can be prevented, but only if properly screened and a Wausau man who has survived this often deadly disease wants to see others don't go through what he did.

Ron Zahrt knows first hand the pain and suffering that comes with colorectal cancer. At 52 he was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer after a routine checkup.

Zahrt says, "I had major surgery. They removed about 12 inches of my colon. I was in the hospital for 9 days. I went through 9 rounds of chemo, radiation. All of which took a year."

Doctors tell him a routine colonoscopy could have saved him from going through all of that.

Zahrt says, "Everyone is afraid of the test, but the test is nothing and having the test is a lot better than going through what I went through."

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of only two types of cancers that can be prevented through screening, but the new report shows the state is failing in the fight.

Erin Zastrow of the American Cancer Society says, "A lot of it is based on the fact that we do not have a law requiring insurance to provide coverage to have colorectal cancer screenings and that's one thing we're looking at right now with pending legislation."

That pending legislation requires insurance companies to cover the cost of colonoscopies.

Zastrow says, "Only about 48% of people with private insurance are actually being tested for colorectal screening, so this legislation is really going to affect a lot of people."

Zahrt says this legislation should be a no brainier. It's a test that may cost a lot of money but could be the difference between life and death.

Zahrt says, "Think of the lives that could be saved and the money that could be saved. We're all talking about healthcare right now and that's a big deal but the money that would be saved by the test far exceeds the cost of the treatment."

The pending legislation passed the senate earlier this year. The assembly passed a similar version of the bill. A full floor vote still needs to be scheduled.

It's recommended patients get screened for the first time at 50 or earlier if there's a family history. This applies to both men and women.

Online Reporter: Colby Robertson

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