Rise in Colon Cancer Rates and Why Prevention Really Matters

Colon cancer affects one in 20 individuals, making it the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. However, it is one of the most treatable types of cancer if diagnosed in the early stages. Colon cancer is even preventable with regular colonoscopies, but studies have found that up to one-third of men and women who are eligible for screening are opting out of routine colonoscopies.

As colon cancer awareness has increased over the past decade, colon cancer incidence among adults between the ages of 50 and 75 have decreased overall. However, colon cancer incidence and mortality is still affecting lower socioeconomic areas of the United States at an alarming rate. Individuals who lack sufficient income are at the highest risk for being uninsured or underinsured, and they are also more likely to be obese, smoke and live a sedentary lifestyle.

Colon cancer incidence is also increasing in younger individuals under the age of 50. Because the U.S. Preventative Task Force Services recommends colon cancer screening beginning at the age of 50, young-onset colon cancer is often not diagnosed until it is in an advanced stage, and is therefore more difficult to treat. Common symptoms of colon
cancer including abdominal pain, changes in bathroom habits and blood in the stool do not appear in the early stages of disease, and these symptoms are more often ignored by younger people.

The best way to lower colon cancer incidence is by screening every eligible individual beginning at the age of 50 (or 45 if you are African American or exhibit other risk factors for colon cancer). In a colonoscopy, your doctor will use a colonoscope to inspect your entire colon for abnormalities and polyps. If any polyps are discovered during the exam, they can be removed before they can develop into cancer.

Although colonoscopy is the gold standard for colon cancer screening, there are many other methods that can also detect colon disease. These include fecal occult blood testing, fecal immunochemical testing, CT colonography, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and double contrast barium enema. Talk to your doctor about what screening method is best for you, and get screened today!

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