March Is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colon Cancer awareness month. Colon cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women despite having a way to screen patients for the disease. Risk factors for colon cancer include your age, race, diet, exercise level, smoking, diabetes, family history and your own personal history of polyps or colon problems. It is recommended that all people start screening for colon cancer with a colonoscopy at age 50. But if screening is available why is colon cancer still the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States?

Although screening is available, it also has a stigma for causing embarrassment, fear of pain, or that the doctor may actually find something. So people place it on the back burner. Early stages of colon cancer can have practically no symptoms and can go unnoticed until the cancer is more advanced. Symptoms of colon cancer include bleeding or blood in your stool, a consistent change in your bowel habits including diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain or bloating and unexplained weight loss. It is important to talk with your doctor if you have any persistent bowel problems or other concerning symptoms and consider a referral to a gastroenterologist.

Talk with your gastroenterologist about your risk factors for colon cancer and decide together when to start screening and what the best screening tool may be. Based on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend that you begin screening before the age of 50. When colon cancer is found in an early stage before it has spread from the colon to other parts of the body, there is a very high survival rate. This March do not delay screening or talking with your doctor about your symptoms any longer! Take an active role in your health care, and do something to make a difference in next year’s statistics.


African Americans at Higher Risk for Colon Cancer

Two senior African American women getting in shape together. They are jogging or power walking on a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood, talking and laughing.

While all men and women should begin regular colon cancer screenings at age 50, there is a group who researchers say could definitely benefit from earlier screenings.

African Americans are at a higher risk for this cancer than other populations. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US for men and women combined, but 90 percent of all cases are preventable by removing polyps before they become cancer. This is why screenings and early detection are so important.

For African Americans, there may be genetic factors that contribute to the higher incidence of colon cancer. They also experience a larger number of polyps on the right side of the colon versus the left. A colonoscopy will be able to see the entire colon and if detected early, polyps can be removed before they become cancerous.

It is very important for African Americans to know their family history. If family history shows colorectal polyps, colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, talk with your doctor about early screening. Screenings save lives! The doctors at Asheville Gastro are here to discuss any concerns you may have.