What You Should Know About Colon Cancer
Article date: March 1, 2012
Over the past few decades, more people have been surviving colon cancer, and fewer people have been dying from it. This is thanks to improvements in colon cancer screening and treatment. Screening can find growths called polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. And screening can find the disease earlier, when it’s likely to be easier to treat. Don’t let these 5 common myths stop you from getting the lifesaving tests you need. The American Cancer Society wants to make sure you know how you can lower your chances of getting colon cancer.
Most people who are diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50. But some people have certain risk factors that may make them more likely to develop it at an earlier age. This may mean they should get a screening test earlier, or have the test more often than other people.
One risk factor is family history. As many as 1 in 5 people who develop colon cancer have other family members – especially parents, brothers and sisters, or children – who’ve had it. Having other colon problems can also increase risk. This includes pre-cancerous polyps, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and hereditary syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome.
If you have had any of these colon problems, you may be more likely to develop colon cancer. Find tools at the Family PLZ web site to help you to learn about your family colon cancer history and share the information with your doctor and family members.
Diet, weight, and exercise also affect your risk for colon cancer. You can help lower your risk by eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and less red meat (beef, lamb, or pork) and less processed meat (hot dogs and some luncheon meat). Men should limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks a day, and women to no more than 1 drink a day. You can also help lower your risk for colon cancer by getting more exercise and staying at a healthy weight. Smoking also increases the risk, so try to kick the habit.
If you are diagnosed with colon cancer, treatment depends on how early it is found, but may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies. You can print out this list of questions to ask your doctor.
Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff
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