It is no secret that people often dread colonoscopies. They are uncomfortable, involve inconvenient preparation, and require anesthesia. What most people don’t know is that colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths, despite the fact that it is preventable. March is dedicated to increasing awareness of this disease and promoting screenings across the country. We at Southern Cancer Center advocate the importance of taking control of your health and getting screened for early detection.
What you should know about Colorectal Cancer:
- Colon cancer is the 3rd most commonly diagnosed cancer. Each year more than 135,000 people are diagnosed with the disease. Usually, it goes undetected and develops over a period of years in the colon or rectum from a precancerous polyp, an abnormal growth, that lines the tissues of the colon or rectum.
- The risk of colon cancer advances with age. The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at average risk (those with no symptoms) have screenings done every 5 years starting at age 50. If a person has a family history of colon cancer, they should start being screened at 40 (if not earlier).
- Family history plays a vital role. People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) who has colon cancer have an increased risk and are two to three times more likely to develop the disease than those without a family history.
- When caught early, colon cancer is 90% beatable. This is a hopeful statistic considering that with regular screenings, this is a preventable disease.
- There are many different screenings a person can undergo for detecting colon cancer. The most common is colonoscopy. During the procedure, the patient is put under anesthesia to reduce discomfort. This procedure is the most effective because physicians are able to view the entire colon and remove any polyps right at the moment they’re noticed. Physicians also might perform a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which is done right in the doctor’s office and requires no sedation. This method only views part of the colon and might require the patient to undergo a colonoscopy if any polyps are detected. In addition to these, there are other blood and fecal tests that can also be performed. People should talk with their health care provider about the advantages and disadvantages of each screening, and find out which one is right for them.
Over the last 50 years, deaths from colon cancer have greatly decreased due to the impact of successful early detection from screenings. Colorectal cancer is one of the few types of cancer that can be prevented. Don’t let an embarrassing or uncomfortable subject matter jeopardize your future—schedule regular, preventative screenings!