Colon cancer, which is usually a preventable and highly curable disease, is the second cancer killer in the USA, say gastroenterologist Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.
Dr. Schnoll-Sussman, who is also acting director of The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health, said: “It’s important for people to understand that with proper screening, colon cancer can not only be detected early, but often can be prevented from developing.”
Dr. Lebwohl added that about 1 in every 3 Americans is not getting screened for colorectal cancer according to national recommendations, despite the wide availability of screening tests.
Lebwohl and Schnoll-Sussman remind people about these five facts regarding colon cancer:
1. Screening for colorectal cancer
Screening could save your life. It can detect cancers very early on, as well as polyps before they become cancerous. Screening should start when you are 50 years old (for both males and females).
A new, effective method of detecting colorectal cancer was presented by Italian scientists in the British Journal of Surgery (December 2012 edition). It consists of a breath test which can help doctors diagnose colorectal cancer.
2. Screen when you are well
Early colorectal cancers generally have no symptoms, and the patient feels well. People with early colon cancer usually have no idea the disease is developing inside them. Colon polyps do not usually cause symptoms either. Screening before symptoms occur is essential – by the time symptoms emerge, colon cancer is no longer in its early stages.
3. Know the risk factors
People with some risk factors need to be screened before they are 50.
Examples include those with:
- inflammatory bowel disease
- a medical history of colon cancer or colon polyps
- a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps
- some hereditary conditions, including FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis) or Lynch syndrome, which can cause colon cancer
If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor so that you may discuss when to start screening.
4. Stop smoking, get moving
Stop smoking, get moving and eat healthily for a lower risk. If you stop smoking (or don’t take up smoking), maintain a healthy body weight, follow a healthy and nutritious diet (avoid red and processed meats and eat plenty of fiber), and exercise regularly you will minimize your risk of developing colon cancer.
Researchers explained in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (May 2012 issue) that exercise is associated with lower rates of colon and breast cancer deaths.
5. It can affect anyone
Colorectal cancer does not discriminate. One in every twenty people is diagnosed with colorectal cancer during his/her lifetime. Colorectal cancer affects both males and females.
Colon cancer is a malignant tumor that arises from the inner wall of the colon (the large intestine).
Rectal cancer is a malignant tumor that forms in the rectum, the last 6 inches of the large intestine which ends where the anus is.
Colorectal cancer refers to both rectal and colon cancer.
Colon cancer and rectal share many features, including risk factors, symptoms and how screening procedures are performed. However, their treatment plans are usually different.
Diagram of the human intestine
What is the difference between the colon and the rectum? The colon is the long, coiled tube-like organ that removes water from food that has been digested. What is left is solid waste material (stool). The stool moves through the colon and is stored in the rectum, the last six inches of the large intestine, until it leaves the body through the anus.