Turning 50? Don't put off colon cancer screening

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Colon cancer is the third-leading killer among cancers and one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in men and women in the U.S.

Yet, it is a preventable and treatable disease if diagnosed in its early stages.

If you are turning 50, do not put off having a colon cancer screening exam. As March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it is a great time to learn the facts about colon cancer prevention.

Colon cancer is referred to as a silent killer because often there are no symptoms until it is in its later stages and more difficult to treat. If there are symptoms they might include blood in or on the stool, pain that doesn’t go away, and/or unexplained weight loss.

The single largest risk factor for this disease is age, with approximately 90 percent of all colon cancers occurring in people over the age of 50.

Even if you lead a healthy lifestyle you can develop colon polyps and colon cancer. Other risk factors that can lead to the development of colon cancer are eating a low fiber diet, being overweight, smoking and having an overall inactive lifestyle.

Most colon cancers arise from precancerous growths in the colon, known as polyps, that can be found during a screening colonoscopy and removed before they become cancerous.

Screening can also find colorectal cancer in its early stages, when there is a greater chance treatment will be most effective and lead to a cure. Although cases of colon cancer are decreasing nationally, largely due to the results of increased screening for the disease, there are still people putting off exams. A quality screening colonoscopy and appropriate follow-up exam can prevent colon cancer and save lives.

If you are turning 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, polyps, or unexplained abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, contact your physician and schedule a colorectal cancer screening exam.

A screening exam is one of the most important things you can do to protect your life and the lives of those you love.

Candace Maroldo is a certified gastroenterology registered nurse at Providence St. Mary Regional Cancer Center.

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