WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. -

Doctors say 50,000 people die from colon cancer each year, and that's why Good Neighbor Pharmacies across the Tri-Cities are offering a new way to test for it.

Everything you need to test for colon cancer is inside a free packet from Good Neighbor Pharmacies across the Tri-Cities. "This doesn't require a prescription or a physician recommendation. This is a self-test and in the privacy of your own home. If there is any positive result, then you need to see a physician," says Kent Walker. 

Kent Walker is a pharmacist at Olde Towne Pharmacy. He tells us each packet contains five tissues that you use to test. "You put one in to make sure everything is clean and usable in your commode, one after each of three consecutive bowel movements. If there is a color, that means it’s a positive result," he explained.

If it's a positive result, you need to see a doctor.

We learned each year there are as many as 140,000 cases of colon cancer, but only 60 percent of people screen for it, which some doctors say is concerning. "There is still a huge chunk almost 40 percent of patients who continue to ignore screening," adds Anil Tumker.  

Oncologist Anil Tumker tells us people between the ages of 50 to 75 years old need to be screened each year. He also says anyone with a family history of colon cancer should start screening earlier. "If we catch it at an early stage when most patients are probably asymptomatic, that would be the best stage where we would actually get a cure. The higher the stage then the chances of cure actually dwindle," he said.

Tumker says some symptoms of colon cancer are changes in your bowel movements. "Bleeding is another thing that you'll see, especially in cancers that affect the left part of your colon, where it's easy to bleed. Pain in the abdomen is something you can't see, loss of appetite, or weight loss," he said.

Kent Walker encourages everyone to be proactive with exams and doctor visits. "With this [free test] there are no special diet restrictions, no handling of the stool, and you get results in a couple of minutes. It's an easy test to do," he said.

We learned there are four stages of colon cancer. Doctors tell us if you catch it in the first or second stage there is a very good chance of survival -- that's why they encourage everyone to get tested.