What You Need to Know About Colon Cancer
BY HANNAH ROPP
Many people were shocked when Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman died last year from colon cancer at 43. His death brought awareness to colon cancer, the second most commonly diagnosed form of cancer and the third most deadly.
Fortunately, colon cancer can be prevented and treated when caught early. “Screening for colon cancer is important because it allows us to either prevent cancer from developing, or to detect it at an early stage, when it is much more treatable. Knowing the facts about colon cancer also can save your life,” says colon and rectal surgeon Joshua Nochumson, MD, with LVPG Surgery–Health & Wellness Center.
“Screening for colon cancer is important because it allows us to either prevent cancer from developing, or to detect it at an early stage, when it is much more treatable,” Nochumson says.
Know your risks
Colon cancer is highly curable if caught early; however, there are often no early warning signs. “Like some other types of cancer, there aren’t really any early symptoms that warn people of the disease. That’s why it’s important for people to know their risks for colon cancer and when they should be screened,” says general surgeon Michael Mahoney, DO, with LVPG Surgery–Health & Wellness Center.
Some of the risk factors for colon cancer include:
Age – Most cases of colon cancer occur in men and women over 50, which is when screenings should begin.
Lifestyle – Some lifestyle factors, such as obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use and lack of exercise, may increase the likelihood of developing colon cancer.
Family history – If you have a first-degree relative with colon cancer, you are two to three times more likely to develop it yourself.
Certain health conditions – Your chances for developing colon cancer increase if you have certain health conditions like type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or Crohn’s disease.
Don’t put off your screening
Unlike other forms of cancer, colon cancer can actually be prevented and not just diagnosed through regular screenings, known as colonoscopies, which begin for everyone at age 50. However, if you have a family history of the disease you may be encouraged to start colonoscopy screening earlier. During the screenings, surgeons can find and remove polyps before they turn cancerous. Colonoscopies are also crucial to detecting colon cancer early, when it is most treatable.
He stresses the importance of not delaying your colonoscopy. “Having a colonoscopy can literally save your life. At Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) we are doing everything we can to ensure our patient’s safety, including health screenings for both patients and staff, requiring masks for everyone and routine cleaning and disinfecting. It’s much safer to have your colonoscopy than to skip it,” Mahoney says.
Don’t put your health on hold. As your health partner, LVHN has put safety measures in place to ensure you can receive the care you need safely and efficiently. Visit LVHN.org/colonoscopy to find a location near you and schedule your appointment.