Colon cancer is a ‘silent’ cancer, meaning it often causes no major symptoms until it has reached advanced stages. Though it is a serious disease, it is also one of the most preventable. Disease awareness and education are among the most effective ways of informing patients of their colon cancer risk and encouraging them to undergo periodic screening for pre-cancerous and cancerous growths. At our office, our team of GI specialists are committed to helping our patients become more informed about colon cancer prevention and awareness.
|More than 135,000 people were diagnosed with colon cancer in the U.S. during 2011. Of them, 52 percent were men and 28 percent were women. The risk of developing the disease increases with age and primarily only affects people over age 60. However, the disease is very slow-growing and may begin as pre-cancerous polyps many years before turning into cancer. Early detection and removal of polyps can help prevent colon cancer from developing years before it starts.|
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is at risk of developing colon cancer, and who should undergo screening?
Both men and women are at risk of colon cancer. Everyone should begin colon cancer screening no later than age 50 – 45 for African Americans. You may also be at increased risk of developing colon cancer if you have a history of benign colon polyps or if you have a family history of colon cancer.
How does a gastroenterologist screen for colon cancer?
Colonoscopy is the most thorough and effective means of screening for colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. A colonoscopy is performed in an outpatient setting while the patient is under sedation. During the procedure, a small lighted camera is threaded through the colon, allowing the doctor to inspect the intestinal wall for signs of abnormal growths.
Is there anything else I can do to prevent colon cancer?
If you have an average risk of colon cancer, you may be able to prevent the disease by changing your diet to include more of whole grains, fiber, fruits, and vegetables. Limit alcohol consumption to only moderate amounts, if at all. This typically equates to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Increase your activity to 30 minutes per day, and stop using tobacco products if you currently smoke. Finally, keep your weight within a healthy range, as obesity is a risk factor for many cancers, including colon cancer.
If you have a heightened risk of colon cancer, you should adopt all of the above habits, as well as talk to your doctor about taking a daily aspirin. When taken regularly, aspirin may be able to reduce your risk of colon cancer. Prescription drugs known as COX-2 inhibitors may also effective for minimizing the chance of polyps returning in people who have had them in the past. In rare cases – usually, those involving inherited syndromes or underlying gastrointestinal disorders – surgery may be necessary to remove all or part of the colon.