These are all excuses some people might give when told it’s time to schedule a colon cancer screening, such as a colonoscopy. But by putting it off, you could be risking your life. And if you think a colonoscopy might be uncomfortable, unpleasant or time-consuming, consider the implications of colon cancer and think again.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. This year nearly 137,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
Worse, more than 50,000 people will die from the disease. In New York State alone, 8,590 people will be diagnosed and 2,970 will die from colorectal cancer. Don’t be a statistic.
Talk with your health care professional about colon cancer screenings and preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk.
Screening can both prevent colorectal cancer and find it early, when it is more treatable, and the five-year survival rate is 90 percent. Experts recommend both men and women over 50 of average risk get screened.
There are a variety of screenings available. A colonoscopy, considered the gold standard, allows medical professionals to examine the entire colon and remove any pre-cancerous growths called polyps, before they ever become cancerous. However, more important than the type of screening is making the appointment and keeping it.
For some, screening should start earlier than age 50. People at higher risk for colon cancer may have other health risks or a family history of colon cancer, polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease.
If you are African American, are obese, have Type II diabetes, smoke or have more than two drinks a day if you are a man or more than one drink a day if you are a woman, you may need to be screened earlier. Have the conversation with your health care professional.
No matter your age, you can get started on colon cancer prevention today. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and eat a nutritious diet low in red meats and processed meats (such as bacon or sausage) and full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Do not smoke, and drink alcohol in moderation.
Colorectal cancer is preventable, beatable and treatable. But more people need to get this message and act on it. Talk to your health professional about your risks.Encourage your loved ones to get screened. Visit HYPERLINK "http://www.preventcancer.org/"www.preventcancer.org for more information about colorectal cancer prevention and early detection.
Dr. Wayne Kye is the spouse of Congresswoman Grace Meng and a member of Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.