Colon cancer is not the easiest topic to discuss, or bring up. That’s one reason why, during National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society wants to share some of the basic facts and latest good news about this preventable, treatable, and beatable disease.
- Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the US, as well as the third leading cause of death for men and women.
- Colon cancer (formally known as colorectal cancer) almost always starts with a polyp – a small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum.
- Colon cancer can be prevented by finding and removing polyps before they become cancerous and is highly treatable when found in its early stages.
Colon cancer is one of only two cancers that can actually be prevented through screening (cervical cancer is the other). About half of all colon cancer deaths in the US could be prevented each year if everyone age 50 and older got screened for the disease. The American Cancer Society recommends everyone age 50 or older talk to their doctor about getting tested and about which test is right for them, even if there is no family history of the disease. Yet even if you’re several decades away from turning 50, it’s not too early to talk to your family about any relatives who have had colon cancer, because you may need to start getting tested earlier.
Since colon cancer nearly always begins with a polyp, getting tested is crucial. In addition to getting tested, you can take a few simple steps to help stay well and reduce your risk of colon cancer. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle by:
- Getting active: With regular physical activity most days of the week
- Eating right: Choosing vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; limiting red and processed meat, including pork and lunch meats; and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women
- Kicking the habit: Quitting or avoiding smoking and other tobacco products
Today, more Americans are surviving colon cancer than ever before. To learn more about how to reduce your risk or find colon cancer early, call your American Cancer Society anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org/colon.