What is the leading, preventable cause of death in the United States? I suppose the headline gave away my punchline, but remembering that colon cancer is both deadly and preventable is a timely exercise during March, which is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
Here's what you need to know: Don't wait until your colon hurts to come to the doctor. That won't work. "Polyps and early tumors are often not symptomatic," said gastroenterologist Uri Ladabaum, MD, in the above Stanford Health Care video.
It's best to catch cancer 10 years before it appears, making 50 a key age to spot a cancer that often appears in the 60s, said endoscopy director Subhas Banerjee, MD.
And a prime screening procedure, colonoscopy, "is no big deal," said oncologist Mark Welton, MD. "They give you a little sedation and the next thing you know is you're saying, 'Are we done?'"
If physicians do spot the cancer early — or even later — they can often remove it, the physicians agreed. Chemotherapy and surgery are continuing to improve, making it more likely that patients can continue to live long, healthy lives.
Family history and race can leave you more vulnerable to colon cancer — African Americans are more likely to get, and die from, the disease — but in general, a fruit-and-vegetable packed diet, avoiding smoking and getting regular exercise can help stave off colon cancer.
Previously: The Big Bang model of human colon cancer, Stanford researchers explore new ways of identifying colon cancer and Study shows evidence-based care eliminates racial disparity in colon-cancer survival rates