Colon Cancer Prevention: Screening is Key

Thursday, March 01, 2012 8:41 AM

Colon Cancer ScreeningColon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers in the United States—nearly 90% preventable with colonoscopy. Despite this, it is the second leading cause of cancer death, affecting more than 29,000 men and women in this country each year.

NorthShore Gastroenterologist, Monica Borkar, MD,  provides a list of risk factors that affect the development of colon polyps—and thereby, colon cancer—including:

Colon cancer starts as a polyp, or growth, in the colon.  These polyps grow slowly over many years, and larger ones are more likely to be dangerous.

In most cases people do not have symptoms, although common symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Age  - Most people who develop colon cancer and colon polyps are over 50 years old.
  • Genetics - A family history of colon cancer imparts a greater risk of developing polyps and cancer; people are usually screened earlier than 50 and are advised to return at shorter intervals if colon cancer has affected someone in their immediate family.
  • Diet - A diet high in red meat and low in dietary fiber may lead to colon cancer development.
  • Exercise - A sedentary lifestyle may be associated with colon cancer so exercise at least one hour three times per week.
  • Personal history of colon polyps - Individuals who have a history of colon polyps are more likely to develop them in the future.
  • Personal history of colon, endometrial, breast or uterine cancer.
  • Certain genetic conditions - Specific types of colitis or inherited diseases can make colon cancer more likely.

National guidelines recommend that individuals with a lack of the risk factors listed above undergo colonoscopy at age 50. Colonoscopy for colon cancer screening—a 20-minute procedure—is the most important test to check for polyps and cancer, even before symptoms arise, and leads to prompt diagnosis and treatment with an excellent survival rate.

Are you surprised by any of the risk factors listed above?

× Alternate Text