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Your Best Action to Prevent Colorectal (Colon) Cancer – Get Screened
General Wellness

Your Best Action to Prevent Colorectal (Colon) Cancer – Get Screened

By Steve Otieno, MD, Oncology & Hematology
Posted: March 28, 2022

Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in the U.S. among men and women combined. It mostly occurs in people ages 45 and older but is increasingly affecting younger people. This type of cancer is especially dangerous as it may develop without displaying any obvious symptoms. Thankfully, there is a way you can prevent colon cancer: detecting it early with screening.

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer affects nearly 150,000 Americans every year and begins as abnormal tissue growth, called a polyp, inside the colon or rectum. With the help of screening tests, doctors can detect polyps, remove them and prevent them from developing into colorectal cancer.

When not detected early, colon cancer can spread to other parts of the body. In the most advanced cases — when this cancer has spread to the liver, lungs or other sites — chemotherapy can often make surgery an option, prolonging and adding quality to life.

Common symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood in or on your stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that your bowel does not empty all the way
  • Abdominal pain, aches or cramps that do not go away
  • Unplanned or unintentional weight loss

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. If you are 45 or older, it's time to get screened. Common risk factors to consider include:

  • You have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • You have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
  • You have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) external icon or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome)

Other lifestyle factors related that might increase your risk include:

  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • A diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use


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How to Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer

The most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to routinely get screened for colorectal cancer, beginning at age 45. According to Dr. Otieno,

“A screening colonoscopy was previously recommended starting at the age of 50. However, colon cancer has been increasing in those under the age of 50 and the new recommended age for a screening colonoscopy is 45.”

According to the American Cancer Society, at least 18% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are related to preventable factors such as excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption and poor nutrition. Along with avoiding tobacco products, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and eating a healthy diet may significantly reduce your lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer.

Take Control of Your Health – Get Screened Today!

If you have any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor. A colonoscopy is the standard for screening for colon cancer; however, there are other options, including virtual colonoscopies, x-rays and stool tests. It's important to talk with your primary care physician to determine which screening method is best for you.

Do you have questions you'd like to ask a healthcare provider?

Schedule an appointment with one of our primary care physicians.

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