Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, occurs in the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which is the lower part of the body’s digestive system. Colorectal cancer often begins as a growth called a polyp, which may form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Some polyps can become cancerous over time. The most effective way to prevent colon cancer is to find and remove polypsduring a colonoscopy.
Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people 50 years or older. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer death, although it is highly treatable when discovered early. In fact, studies have proven that up to 80% of deaths from colon cancer could be prevented if everyone 50 years or older has a regular screening test.
A colonoscopy is an effective screening method in the fight against this deadly disease. During a colonoscopy, the inside of the rectum and entire colon are examined using a long, lighted tube called a colonoscope. Prior to having a colonoscopy, patients are asked to take a laxative and to fast for a day to make the bowels as clean as possible. Patients are given medicine to induce sleep through the exam so they won’t feel anything during the exam. The colonoscopy itself takes about 30 minutes and patients are able to go home shortly after the procedure.
Colon cancer screening is critical for detectingpolyps and removing them before they become cancerous, and should be part of everyone’s preventive health plan. The American College of Gastroenterology suggests colorectal cancer screening every 10 years, beginning at the age of 50, but there are other factors that create a higher risk and help to further identify who should be screened and when. If you are turning 50 or are experiencing abnormal symptoms, GET SCREENED! And be sure to encourage your loved ones to get screened.