Are you making your gut health a priority this year? Add ‘schedule a routine screening’ to your to-do list. Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the U.S., and it occurs most often in people over the age of 50. However, young or old, colon cancer doesn’t discriminate. Take the right steps to protect yourself and decrease risk factors.
What is colon cancer?
Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, occurs in the colon or rectum. The good news is that colon cancer, when discovered early, is highly treatable. Even if it spreads into nearby lymph nodes, surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy is highly effective. Most colon cancers first develop as polyps, abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum that may become cancerous if not removed.
What are the risk factors?
Age, family history, race and lifestyle are all risk factors that can raise your chances of developing colon cancer. If you have a parent, sibling or child with cancer, there is a higher risk of developing it, especially if the family member was diagnosed before the age of 60. African-American men and women are at a higher risk, and about 6 percent of American Jews who are of eastern European descent have DNA changes that increase their risk. An inactive lifestyle that includes a diet high in red and processed meat, smoking and heavy alcohol use can increase your risk. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your personal risk and how often you should be screened.
Why is screening so important?
Many colorectal cancers can be prevented through regular screening. Doctors can find precancerous polyps early and remove them before they turn into cancer.
Because there are often no symptoms when colon cancer is first developing, early detection through screening can dramatically reduce your risk. Northeast Digestive Health Center created its Open Access program to make colon cancer screening more accessible and to help save lives.
What is colonoscopy?
Colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a colonoscope or scope, to look inside the rectum and entire colon. Colonoscopy can show irritated and swollen tissue, ulcers and polyps. If you are unable to have a colonoscopy, your doctor can give you information about other tests that are available.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, a time to increase awareness about how important routine screenings are and to honor and remember loved ones affected by the disease. Colon cancer takes the lives of more than 50,000 people every year. Help combat these statistics by getting screened. Northeast Digestive Health Center is also working to combat colon cancer by hosting its first annual 5K Bum Run fundraiser on April 28. All benefits will go to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.