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Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer is the fastest growing type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., but it can be prevented.

About 150,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with colon cancer each year and nearly 50,000 will die from it.  But colon cancer can be prevented through early screening and treatment, says Dr. Russell Yang, professor and chief of gastroenterology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

SOUND BITE:  “. . .  this is an unusual kind of cancer in the sense that we can do screening, we can look for precursor lesions like a polyp, remove it and prevent cancer entirely.  So this is actually pretty exciting in the medical field.” 

Dr. Yang says screening for colon cancer is recommended for an individual to begin at age 50 if there is no family history of the disease.  If there is a family history, or if you are African-American, screening should start earlier – at age 40 or 45.  He explains some other risk factors for colon cancer.

SOUND BITE: “. . . if you have a family history, you have a prior history of polyps or you have a prior history of colon cancer, you are at high risk of either getting the cancer again or developing cancer.  If you have diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you are certainly at risk.”

Dr. Yang says some basic steps people can take to decrease their risk of getting colon cancer are to stop smoking and eat a diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber with lots of fruits and vegetables.  He also suggests taking a baby aspirin, if your doctor agrees.  To schedule a colon cancer screening, individuals should check with their primary care physician.

This is Ruth Slottag, SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.