Is Colorectal Cancer Preventable?

Reading Time: 3 minutes
*Updated in February 2021

Written by Luanne Force, M.D., and Laurence R. Sands, M.D.
Colorectal surgeons
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center

 

                   

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Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States. It typically affects those in the sixth, seventh and eighth decades of life. The good news is that when colon cancer is found early enough, it is a very treatable and curable disease.

Colonoscopies save lives.

Current recommendations require that a screening colonoscopy be performed starting at age 45, as we are seeing a spike in colon cancer in younger people.

The most important risk factors for colorectal cancer are family history and genetic predisposition. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, then the recommendation is 10 years prior to the presentation of the cancer in that family member. For example, if your mother was diagnosed with cancer at age 45, then you should begin screenings at age 35.

People with certain inflammatory conditions are also at increased risk and should get colonoscopy screenings earlier and more frequently.

Unfortunately, many adults fail to undergo this important screening tool. The purpose of screening colonoscopies is to identify any masses prior to the onset of symptoms and to detect polyps, which can turn into cancer. When detected early, they can be removed at the time of the colonoscopy. These patients will need colonoscopies more frequently than those who do not have any polyps.

If you delay your care and do not undergo the suggested colonoscopy, the disease may be advanced and incurable when discovered.

The test is easy to perform, painless, and with minimal-to-no risk. Quite simply, this exam can save your life. Schedule your colonoscopy at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center today. 

What else can you do to prevent colon cancer?

Most important is maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

We recommend:

  • high-fiber diet (from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
  • diet low in red meats and processed meats
  • smoking cessation
  • alcohol moderation
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • daily exercise
Look out for these symptoms.

Speak to a gastroenterologist if you experience rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or discomfort, a change in bowel habits or the caliber of the stool, incomplete evacuation, fatigue or malaise, weight loss, or anemia.

Often times, colon cancer remains silent until it is at a more advanced stage. This is why colonoscopies are important, even in the absence of symptoms.


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