What is colon cancer and how common is it?

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  1. What is colon cancer and how common is it?

Cancer of the colon and rectum is one of the most common cancers in adults. Each year 150,000 new cases are diagnosed and about 44000 people die from this cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in America. Because of the magnitude of this problem, March was designated as the “Colon Cancer Awareness Month”.

  1. Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

People with a family history of colon, breast, uterine and ovarian cancer are at higher risk of getting colon cancer.

People who live a sedentary life, are obese, consume large amounts of fats, red meat, alcohol and smoke are also at a higher risk.

  1. My brother was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. Do I need to worry about it?

People with a family history of colon cancer or polyps are at a higher risk of colon cancer. If any of your blood relatives has colon cancer or polyps then you should get a colonoscopy earlier.

  1. What is colonoscopy and who should get a colonoscopy?

Colonoscopy is an examination of the entire colon using a flexible video camera. The purpose of a colonoscopy is to look for polyps and remove them before they turn into cancers. Every one over the age of 50 should get a “screening” colonoscopy.

  1. How can I do to reduce my risk of getting colon cancer?

You will do yourself a big favor if you get a colonoscopy at age 50. If anyone in your family has colon cancer or polyps you should get a colonoscopy at age 40. Screening colonoscopy not only helps diagnose cancer earlier but it can also prevent cancer. Most colon cancers develop in polyps. If these polyps are removed during a colonoscopy they will not be able to develop into cancers.

Low fat, low fiber diet also helps reduce your risk for colon cancer. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol. Exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

  1. How is colon and rectal cancer treated?

When cancer is detected early it can simply be removed during the colonoscopy. The need for major abdominal surgery is therefore avoided. More often the cancer is too large to be removed during colonoscopy. In these cases patients require surgery. If the cancer is diagnosed late and has spread to the lymph nodes or liver, then patients may need additional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.