My grandfather died of colon cancer in 1960 when I was fourteen. He got sick, went to the hospital, and died within six weeks, leaving a big hole in my life. That was normal then because there was no way to diagnose colon cancer early.
Today things are much different. Colon cancer can be diagnosed almost as easily as skin cancer because colon polyps of the type that can become cancer can be seen with a colonoscope, removed, and treatment begun as needed.
According to Dr. Chris Wells of the Digestive Disease Center in Panama City, Florida, colon cancer can be found and treated with a cure rate of at least 85% today. Why not 100%? Because some people, even with symptoms put off examination until it’s too late. Others may develop the cancer at an age much younger than what is considered the normal risk age and have advanced disease before they are examined.
The key to finding and treating colon cancer is early detection. Patients with symptoms should be evaluated as soon as possible. The Mayo Clinic patient information site list the following symptoms that should be evaluated: a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, a feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue, or unexplained weight loss.
Everyone is at risk for colon cancer, but some are at greater risk than others such as people over age 50, a family history of colon cancer in parents or siblings, African-Americans, people with chronic inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Chron’s Disease, low fiber high fat diet, obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption all have an increased risk of colon cancer.
Early detection of colon cancer is the key to successful treatment. Routine screening should begin at age 50, age 40 for those with risk factors. Any of the listed symptoms should prompt you to visit your doctor for evaluation or to make an appointment with a gastrointestinal specialist for evaluation. As part of a healthy lifestyle, get regular check-ups to look for any hidden disease before it lets you know it is there. Only with early detection and treatment can we truly say that no one should die of colon cancer today. © 2019 Guy A. Crawford, PA, retired