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Colon Cancer Screenings Could Save Your Life
Few adults age 50 or older have regular colon cancer screenings. That's a choice that could have serious health consequences. Cancer of the colon and rectum, called colorectal cancer, is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. But when colon cancer is discovered in its early stages, it's usually curable.
What is it?
Colorectal cancer begins in your colon or rectum, the part of your body's digestive system that stores waste until it passes out of the body. Benign (not cancerous) polyps in the colon or rectum are not uncommon. They are usually harmless and often discovered during screenings. However, some polyps have the potential to become cancerous. Unlike many cancers, colon cancer usually grows slowly. It can reside in your body in a highly curable state for up to 10 years.
Talk to your physician about which test is best for you. The American Cancer Society recommends regular screenings begin at age 50.
Signs and symptoms
Colon cancer may have different warning signs depending on where in your colon it develops. Many people don't have symptoms until the cancer is quite advanced. Possible signs of a problem include: rectal bleeding, altered bowel habits, pencil-thin stools, abdominal cramps or pain, unexplained, persistent urges to have bowel movements, unexplained iron-deficient anemia, unexplained weight loss.
Doctors aren't sure what causes colon cancer, but studies have shown certain risk factors:
If you are over 50 and haven't done so, talk to your physician about risk factors and recommended screenings. Some of the screening tests are uncomfortable but generally not painful. Don't let fear of the screening prevent you from detecting colon cancer early -- when it is highly curable.
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