March 30, 2016

Colon Cancer is Not an “Old Person’s Disease”

Crawford-ClayBy Guest Blogger Crawford Clay, colorectal cancer survivor, certified patient support navigator and advocacy coordinator, Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA)

What can you do to avoid cancer? Don’t use tobacco products. Don’t drink alcohol to excess. Exercise and eat healthy. Use sunscreen. Those are all important tips. Here’s one you may not have thought of—get screened. Following the proper screening guidelines can prevent up to 90 percent of colon cancer.

  • Everyone starting at age 50 should get screened. However, family history, ethnicity and race can put an individual in a high-risk group and make them a candidate for early colon cancer screening. Ask your doctor when you should be screened.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only two in three adults who need to be screened are actually doing it. We can do better.
  • Colon cancer often has no symptoms until it's at an advanced stage. In many cases, timely screening can prevent colon cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancer.

Examine Your Screening Options

Depending on your risk level, you have a variety of screening options. A colonoscopy is the gold standard and the only test for high-risk people like me. The prep is no fun, but it beats cancer. (I’ve had both, so I know.) Average risk people can chose less invasive options. Don’t know your risk? Take CCA’s risk quiz.

People think of colon cancer as an old person’s disease. Trust me, it’s not. I was diagnosed at 43. While rates for colon cancer in adults 50 and older have been declining due to improved screening rates, incidence rates in adults younger than 50 years have been increasing. If you are symptomatic, be seen by a doctor and get screened. Don’t accept, “Oh it’s probably x,” for an answer. Find out for sure.

Don’t think you can afford to be screened? That’s why we started Blue Hope screening. Would you like to help people who can’t afford screening? Look here.

There are more than 1 million colon cancer survivors in the U.S. My dad and I are two of them. Following the proper screening procedures will prevent you from adding to those numbers. Since the mid-1980s, the colon cancer survival rate has been increasing, due in part to greater awareness of screening and screening options, as well as improved treatment options.

If you want to know more about colon cancer, Colon Cancer Awareness Month or any of the CCA’s support programs, you can reach us through our website or call our Helpline at (877) 422-2030.

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