While it doesn’t get lots of headlines, ribbons or cancer walks in its honor, colon cancer is a leading health threat for both men and women and the second top cause of cancer related death in the United States.
This year, 136,830 people will be diagnosed and 50,310 will die of colorectal cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Colon cancer refers to a cancer that can affect either the colon or the rectum, all part of the body’s digestive system. Approximately 70 percent of colon cancer cases occur in the colon and 30 percent in the rectum.
The disease largely besets older adults and tends to be hereditary. Other risk factors include a diet heavy on red meat and fat (esp. animal fat) and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber as well as cigarette smoking.
Colon cancer is highly curable, as long as treatment happens before the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. To that end, adults over age 50 should begin regular high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy to catch the disease in its early stages.
If you’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer, a number of treatment options are available including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and proton therapy. Proton therapy offers the advantage of highly targeted, intense doses of radiation that attacks the cancer but spares surrounding healthy tissues, limiting long-term damage and helping keep the disease in check.
Here’s the story of a Provision patient who underwent treatment for colorectal cancer last year.
And here is the guide for colorectal cancer screening for all those over age 50, provided by the CDC.