Southampton, NY—Colorectal cancer, more commonly known as colon cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for both men and women in the U.S. However, it’s very preventable and treatable, so during Colon Cancer Awareness Month this March, Stony Brook Southampton Hospital is encouraging people to speak to their doctors about their colon health and getting screened.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 95,920 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year and that 50,260 people will die from it. Studies have shown though that 60 percent of cases can be prevented by a colonoscopy—a procedure that involves examining the inside of the colon for any precancerous polyps, or growths—even years before symptoms occur. Symptoms of colon cancer include changes in bowel habits, persistent abdominal discomfort, rectal bleeding, and weakness or fatigue.
Knowing the risk factors of colon cancer is also important for preventing it. Your risk for the disease increases if you’re over the age of 50, you have a family history of colon cancer, you’ve had another type of cancer, you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you smoke, and you eat a diet high in red meat but low in calcium, folate, and fiber.
Aside from routine screenings, colon cancer can be prevented by following a diet of mostly whole grains, fruits, and vegetables with little to no red meat, cured meat, or processed foods. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight are also beneficial, as is abstaining from tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.
“It is important for patients to focus on health rather than on disease and illness. They should go to the doctor to stay well—not just to get well. Getting a colonoscopy is part of that equation,” said Steve Georgopoulos, MD, a Gastroenterologist at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “It’s proven to prevent colon cancer and reduce mortality before one gets sick.”