Now that it is March we need to focus our attention on Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Each March (and all year), medical professionals, patients, caregivers and survivors make it their mission to bring awareness to colon cancer and educate people on the prevention of this disease. At one time it seemed like colon cancer was something that people got diagnosed with much later in life but people are being diagnosed with colon cancer younger and younger in life. Ideally, prevention is key and this can be achieved thanks to proper nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and screening.
What Is Colon Cancer?
When tumors form in the lining of the large intestine, this is considered colon cancer as this area is where the colon and the rectum are located. In many cases a polyp is the first sign of an issue within the color. Over time if left untreated or not removed, the polyp can turn cancerous. It takes knowledge and proactive care to prevent, diagnose and treat colon cancer.
Who Should Be Screened?
In general, everyone, man and woman, should be screen for colon cancer starting at the age of 50. People who have a history of colon cancer or have a history of colon cancer in their immediate family may need to be screened before this age. Typically, you would discuss your need for screening with a trusted medical professional and go from there. The screening process involves a simple colonoscopy which is performed by a doctor while you are somewhat sedated. Your doctor will scope your colon and the other nearby areas to check for things like polyps which can turn into cancer. Since it is the fourth most common cancer in the United States currently, colon cancer affects many different people and demographics. Some of the risk factors associated with this form of cancer can include:
-Family members that have had or currently have colon cancer
-Personal past history of other gastrointestinal cancers such as cancer of the rectum
-Personal history of breast cancer, ovary cancer or endometrium cancer
-History of polyps
-History of colitis
What If Something Is Found?
If your doctor performs a colonoscopy and finds polyps he or she will likely remove a sample of the polyp. It will then be sent to a lab where it will be tested for a number of things, including cancer. It takes a few weeks to receive the results and your doctor will also advise you if you need further testing and if so, when that would occur. Sometimes your polyps will be fine and not require much more than routine monitoring. Other times, polyps can test as being pre-cancerous and will be watched more closely. Cancerous polyps will require further investigative work and treatment.
What Are The Symptoms?
While symptoms can vary and sometimes symptoms are unnoticed, some of the symptoms associated with colon cancer can include:
-Bowel habit changes
-Blood in feces
-Bleeding from the rectum
-Bloating, cramping and pain for no known reason
-Loss of appetite
Educating yourself on colon cancer is the first step towards preventing it. Knowledge is power and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, periodic screening for colon cancer is very important. You can also limit the amount of alcohol that you consume on a frequent basis and abstain from smoking. As with all cancers and other diseases, adopting a healthy lifestyle that incorporates healthy eating and exercise into your daily routine is very important. Ongoing routine medical care is essential as well for optimal health.