Colon cancer is currently the third most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. In fact, 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women are likely to be diagnosed in 2018. Colon cancer is also the third leading cause of cancer deaths because it is difficult to treat in the late stages. However, there are several ways you can get involved to prevent a diagnosis or catch colon cancer early while it is highly treatable, even curable.
Risk Factors of Colon Cancer
There are some risk factors that you have complete control over. These include obesity, lifestyle, diet, and smoking. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and consume a diet that is high in fat or processed foods and low in fiber, you are at a greater risk of diagnosis. Consider changing your diet to include more fruits and vegetables and limit fried or processed foods. Adjust your schedule to include opportunities to exercise. If you struggle with losing weight, you may want to consider one of the weight-loss programs that Dr. Sameer Islam offers. Exercise and weight loss is not only about looking better, but taking control of your health and potentially preventing a serious cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, there are risk factors that are beyond your control like race, age, genetics, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). African Americans have the highest mortality rates due to colorectal incidences in the U.S. and Ashkenazi Jews have the greatest risk of diagnosis in the world. Age plays another factor in potential diagnosis as it is most common in adults over the age of 50. Those with a family history of colon polyps, colon cancer, or an inherited syndrome such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) — genetic mutations that may be cancer causing — are risk factors beyond your control. It is important to talk to your doctor if these risk factors affect you. Those who have Type 2 diabetes or IBD, whether Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are also at a higher risk and should consider screening at an earlier age.
The Importance of Screening
A colonoscopy is typically not encouraged until the age of 50 when the risk for colorectal cancer increases. If you are at least 50 years old and have not had a colonoscopy, this is the time to do so! Colon cancer that is detected early can easily be treated. The number of colorectal cancer survivors is increasing every year as screening becomes more available and people become more aware of its necessity. The term “colonoscopy” tends to draw up ideas of discomfort and awkwardness, leading people to put it off or resolve to avoid it altogether. However, the procedure is not only quick and relatively painless, it could literally be a lifesaver. During the procedure, a small tube is inserted into the rectum and guided through the colon looking for polyps. Polyps are small growths in the colon that can become cancerous over the course of 10 to 15 years. If detected in a colonoscopy, they can easily be removed and biopsied to determine whether or not they are cancerous. If you begin screening early and regularly, chances are the polyps can be detected — and removed — before they become a danger to your body.
Don’t take any chances. Your life is too precious to turn a blind eye to the risks of colon cancer and preventative measures you can take today. If you are at least 50 years old or are at a greater risk for colon cancer, then schedule a colonoscopy today. If you have concerns about your gut health, make sure you contact your healthcare provider. Let this month remind you to be committed to your own health and make choices that can direct your life away from a colon cancer diagnosis.