DEAR ABBY: In January, the American Cancer Society reported that cancer deaths had dropped for the second year in a row. The study noted that there was a big decline in colorectal cancer mortality. This is great news, Abby, but we can’t rest on these laurels.

The decline in colon cancer deaths is largely attributed to early detection, which is why it’s so important for those 50 and over to get tested. I need your help in continuing to get the word out about the importance of getting tested for colorectal (commonly known as “colon”) cancer.

Just as every woman knows that breast cancer screening saves lives, every man and woman should know that colon cancer screening also saves lives. Starting at age 50, men and women ­- regardless of their family history – should talk with their doctors about their testing options for this deadly disease.

Getting tested can stop colon cancer before it starts because the tests enable doctors to detect and remove hidden growths (called “polyps”) before they can become cancerous. The tests can also detect cancer in an early stage. When found at its earliest, most treatable stage, colon cancer has a 90 percent survival rate!

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. I hope your readers will become more aware of the need to be tested and discuss it with their doctors as well as friends and loved ones who should be tested. Thanks for your help, Abby. RICHARD C. WENDER, M.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

ou’re welcome. And thank you for your important and timely reminder, which proves the truth of the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Because colon cancer is one of those “silent” diseases that can take hold before a person realizes he or she is in trouble, it’s vital that men and women be checked for it on a regular basis.

Some good news: Medicare now covers all the tests for colon cancer. New Medicare beneficiaries within the first six months of enrollment can learn more about these tests by taking advantage of the “Welcome to Medicare” visit.

It’s an initial wellness physical exam that gives beneficiaries and physicians a chance to discuss health risk factors and schedule cancer screenings already covered by Medicare, including those for colon cancer.

As always, the American Cancer Society is there to help with a free information kit to assist readers in talking to their doctors about colon cancer testing. Let the society help you stop colon cancer before it starts by calling the toll-free number: (800) 227-2345.

DEAR ABBY: In one of my college classes, the professor was adamant about not clapping in the middle of a live theater performance. He said clapping interrupts the performers and should be done only at the end of each piece.

Yet every time I attend a concert or ballet, the audience claps after each dance, song or sometimes even a fancy move. What is proper etiquette at a live performance? – L-AUREN IN CAVE CREEK, ARIZ.

DEAR LAUREN: Ideally it would be preferable if the audience waited until “the fat lady sang” before starting the applause because not only can it distract the performer, it can also be annoying to other members of the audience.

However, because applause is an expression of appreciation – and often spontaneous it is impossible to control. (That’s why some people avoid rock concerts.)

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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