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What You Need to Know
Every year during the month of March, colon cancer awareness month is observed to bring awareness to the second leading cause of cancer deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, close to 140,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. Additionally, African-Americans have the highest incidence and rate of death from colon cancer.
Taking the steps to learn more about the facts of colon cancer while practicing a healthy lifestyle are key for reducing the risk of developing colon cancer.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a form of cancer which occurs in the colon (intestines) or the rectum (anus). Colon cancer begins from what is known as a polyp, an abnormal growth within the colon or rectum.
Am I at Risk?
Colon cancer can affect both men and women. Individuals over the age of 50 are typically most affected due to the increased risk with older age. There are other risk factors, as well, which may increase an individuals chance of developing colon cancer, such as:
Past family or personal history of colon cancer
Excessive alcohol consumption
Past personal history of inflammatory diseases
What are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer may not always exhibit signs that are easily picked up. However, common symptoms include stomach pain, aches or cramps, blood in the stool and excessive or abnormal amounts of weight loss.
How Can I Reduce My Risk?
Taking preventative measures early can greatly help to lower your risk of developing colon cancer. Engaging in regular physical activity, cutting out smoking and excessive alcohol consumption and following a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and whole grains are very valuable steps to take. Additionally, regular screenings are highly recommended for individuals 50 years old and over and for those who may be at a higher risk.
Since colon cancer does not always shows signs, it’s better to be screened before any symptoms to arise to increase the chance of early detection and removal. Screenings can help to detect any polyps within the colon early so that they are removed right away. According to the CDC, there are three types of screenings which are routinely used:
High Sensitivity FOBT Test (Stool Test)
This tests consists of two different test types, one which tests for blood in the stool and the other uses antibodies to test for blood in the stool. A small brush or stick is used to obtain a small sample of the stool and then it is given to a doctor or lab to be checked.
During this screening, a flexible and short thin tube that is lit is used by the doctor to detect any polyps in the lower portion of the colon and in the rectum.
This test is very similar to the Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. The only difference is that the tube which checks for polyps is inserted inside the entire colon and the rectum. During this test, if any polyps are found, the doctor is able to remove them. Additionally, If anything abnormal is found during the stool test or the flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy is normally the recommended follow-up.
This month pass this information on to someone you know so that they may take the necessary steps and precautions to prevent the risk of colon cancer. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov
Centers for Disease Control
Prevent Cancer Foundation
P.O. Box 5201
Tallahassee, FL 32301