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Colon Polyps and Colon cancer

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, affecting both men and women. Once diagnosed, about 40% of people will die of the disease.

Yet, colorectal cancer is among the most preventable disease. Almost all cancers start as small abnormal growths called colon polyps that occur on the lining of the lower GI tract and can be removed during a colonoscopy. Most polyps and cancers occur without any symptoms. If symptoms occur, they can include rectal bleeding, anemia, weight loss and changes in bowel function.

Prevention of Colon Cancer

The incidence of colon cancer has been steadily declining over the past 15 years mostly due to the completion of colonoscopy screening exams. The exams are an easy and painless way to remove the pre-cancerous polyps before they get the chance to grow into cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends a colonoscopy for everyone beginning at age 50 and age 45 for African Americans. If your family has had colon cancer or large colon polyps, it may be appropriate to begin screening in your 30’s or 40’s. Also, people with Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease are at increased risk for developing colon cancer and require closer follow up.

Most cases of colon cancer can be prevented by following these guidelines. Sadly, many patients put off screening because they are afraid of the examination or the preparation for it. Your first step in preventing this serious disease is to speak with a physician at Putnam Gastroenterology to evaluate your risk and help decide if you are an appropriate candidate to get screened.