Colon cancer is cancer that develops in the colon (large intestine). Usually colon cancer develops as a small, grape-like growth on the inside of the colon known as a polyp. Polyps are not cancer, but they can turn into cancer. It is possible to find and remove polyps before cancer develops. Looking for polyps and removing them can save your life!
Colon cancer is very common. 1 in 20 adults will develop colon cancer. It is found in both men and women equally. Everyone is at risk for developing polyps and colon cancer. In the U.S. 50,000 people die each year from this type of cancer.
Age 50 is the best time to begin doing this type of test to prevent this cancer. Even if there are no symptoms you should still have a test. Polyps rarely cause symptoms. Polyps grow silently, without pain, bleeding, or changing the way you go to the bathroom. You should still have a test even if there is not a family history of colon cancer. Most colon cancer happens to people who do not have a family history of colon cancer. Everyone 50 and over should have a test to prevent colon cancer.
The most popular test to prevent colon cancer is a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is when an experienced doctor puts in a very thin, flexible tube into the anus in order to look at the inside of the colon. The doctor then looks for polyps or cancer. The day before a colonoscopy you will drink a liquid to clean out your colon. This will let the doctor get a clearer look at the inside of the colon. You will go to the bathroom many times. You will also be given a medicine right before the colonoscopy that will help you to feel relaxed and more comfortable. The exam takes about half an hour and you should plan to miss that day of work. You will be required to have someone to drive you home after the colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is not as difficult as some people think. Many like the “peace of mind” it gives them. If everything is normal, you will not need another test for 10 years!
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