The colon (large intestine) is the final section of your digestive tract. Colon cancer often begins with the development of small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps. Over time some of these polyps can become cancerous. Because polyps are small and often produce few symptoms, regular screening tests can help prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they turn into cancer.
As the second leading cancer killer in the United States, colorectal cancer is a serious health issue that can be prevented with simple tests. Colon cancer is 90% curable when found in its early stages. That's why screening colonoscopies are recommended for everyone at the age of 50 (45 for African Americans) or earlier if you have a personal or family history of colon cancer. These screenings have saved countless lives and have drastically reduced the numbers of colon cancers diagnosed in the US.
- Age – Colorectal cancer is more common in men and women over the age of 40 and that risk doubles after you reach 50.
- Family history – Polyps in the colon or colon cancer
- Other Diseases – Having an inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis can also put you at risk.
- Diet – High fat and low fiber diets may put you at risk, or if your diet is high in smoked and salt or nitrite-cured foods.
- Alcohol – Heavy drinkers seem to be more at risk.
- Smoking – Smoking increases colon cancer risk as well as stomach cancer and pancreatic cancer and smokeless tobacco increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat and esophagus.
- Weight – Being overweight and/or sedentary puts you at a higher risk.
- Abdominal pain, cramps, or gas
- Blood in your stool
- A change in your normal bowel habits that lasts longer than four weeks, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
- Feeling like your bowel isn't completely empty
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
If you are experiencing symptoms, have a family history, or you are turning 50, ask your primary care physician for a referral to Asheville Gastroenterology Associates for a screening, then make an appointment.