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Colon-Rectal Cancer: Are You at Risk?

Colon-rectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States. For many, early detection and intervention can prevent colon-rectal cancer from occurring.

Colon-rectal cancer risk factors

Most colon-rectal cancers start out as a tiny colon growth called a polyp. Polyps typically take years to grow into a cancer. Removing polyps during a colonoscopy before they have a chance to turn cancerous helps stop that progression.

Who is at risk?

  • Both men and women are at risk for colon polyps.
  • People of all races are at risk for polyps.
  • People over age 50.

You are at a greater risk if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are African-American (Some experts recommend screening at age 45.)
  • Have type 2 diabetes
  • Smoke
  • Drink alcohol
  • Eat red meat, processed food and/or smoked foods
  • Have a personal or family history of polyps or colon-rectal cancer

Detecting colon-rectal cancer

Waiting for symptoms of colon-rectal cancer to appear – diarrhea, rectal bleeding, losing weight without trying – is waiting too long.

Hematologist oncologist Michael Evans, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology–Airport Beltway, says early detection is critical. “Identified early and properly treated, stage one colon-rectal cancer has approximately a 90 percent cure rate,” he says.

LVHN general surgeon and endoscopist Martin Walko, MD, at the Health & Wellness Center at Hazleton advises his patients to consider colon-rectal cancer screening options:

  • Stool tests that detect blood or a genetic cancer marker (Cologuard®)
  • Barium enema
  • Colonoscopy

“Most physicians and health care providers consider colonoscopy the ‘gold standard’,” Walko says. “But tests you can do at home and send away for analysis are a starting point.”

Ready to test? Free colon-rectal screening kits are available.

The health care team at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Hazleton wants you to get screened for colon-rectal cancer. Free colon-rectal cancer screening kits that you use at home and send away for testing will be available at the following locations during the month of March:

  • Lehigh Valley Hospital–Hazleton, front desk
  • Health & Wellness Center at Hazleton, front desk
  • Lehigh Valley Physician Group Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology–14th Street
  • LVHN Cancer Center–Airport Beltway