More than 90% of colon cancers are found in people age 50 or older. That’s why we urge adults 50 and older to get screened for colon cancer. A colonoscopy tests for – and can also prevent – colon cancer.
What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer (also called colorectal cancer) is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people who are 50 years or older.
It is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in New York City, killing approximately 1,400 New Yorkers each year. However, it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancers. About 95% of colon cancers are treatable when caught in the early stages.
What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
Being 50 or older
Having a personal or family history of colon cancer
Being overweight or obese
How can I lower my risk for colon cancer?
If you are 50 or older or have a family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about colon cancer screening.
Do not smoke
Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
Eat a healthy diet
How can I get screened for colon cancer?
There are different ways to screen for colon cancer. One of the most effective and common methods is a colonoscopy. This screening is recommended once every 10 years beginning at age 50. During the procedure, the doctor examines the entire colon and may find and remove polyps (abnormal growths) that could develop into cancer if left alone. So a colonoscopy not only tests for – but can also prevent – colon cancer. And although some preparation is required, the screening itself is painless and takes about 30 minutes.
Other colon cancer screening methods are available as well. An exam known as a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which should be done every five years, evaluates the lower part of the large intestine. Another screening option is a blood stool test, which is non-invasive and should be done every year.
Any screening method for colon cancer is better than none, but if anything unusual is found, your doctor is likely to recommend a follow-up colonoscopy. Speak to your doctor to see which screening method is right for you.