March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month – a time to learn about colon cancer prevention. If detected early, colon cancer can be treated and it can be cured. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
According to Ellen Gutkin, DO, a gastroenterologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens and assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, “Routine colonoscopy exams are lifesavers and may reduce your risk of succumbing to colorectal cancer by 90 percent.”
Dr. Gutkin explains why even healthy adults, with no family or medical history, should schedule a routine colonoscopy.
“I feel fine.” Colon polyps and early colon cancer can develop silently without symptoms. Waiting until symptoms occur can mean the cancer is more advanced and less likely to be cured.
“I’m healthy…why get screened?” According to experts from the American College of Gastroenterology, colorectal cancer screening is for healthy people. If a physician finds a polyp, it can be removed in order to prevent it from developing into colorectal cancer.
“No one in my family had colon cancer.” Don’t be the first. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, roughly 5 in 100 people will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetimes even with no family history.
“Only men get colon cancer.” Colon cancer is an equal opportunity disease. Women have the same risk as men.
“I have no risk factors.” According to Dr. Gutkin, “The single biggest modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer is a failure to be screened.”
Dr. Gutkin adds, “Colorectal cancer can be prevented – not just detected – through colonoscopy.” Starting at age 50 (age 45 for African Americans), it is recommended that men and women of average risk have a colonoscopy every ten years. Here are some ways you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer:
1 Get screened regularly.
2 Maintain a healthful weight throughout your life.
3 Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
4 Consume a healthful diet with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.
5 If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption.
6 Consume the recommended levels of calcium, primarily through food sources.
7 Avoid tobacco products.
New York-Presbyterian/Queens, located in Flushing, New York, is a community teaching hospital affiliated with Weill Cornell Medicine, serving Queens and Metro New York residents. The 535-bed tertiary care facility provides services in 14 clinical departments and numerous subspecialties. Annually, 15,000 surgeries and 4,000 infant deliveries are performed at New York-Presbyterian/Queens. With its network of affiliated primary and multispecialty care physician practices and community-based health centers, the hospital provides approximately 162,000 ambulatory care visits and 124,000 emergency service visits annually. For more information, visit nyp.org/queens.