In 2014, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Although he had turned 50 the year before and had already survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he had put off his colonoscopy. My mother convinced him to get his test one year later, even though he really didn’t want to.
His routine colonoscopy resulted in doctors discovering a blockage and he had to have a colon resectioning. It was after his surgery that we learned he had colon cancer. Over the next three years, he had aggressive chemo treatments, radiation, seed therapy, and many more surgeries. Despite having excellent medical care, he passed away in 2017. He was 54.
Although my dad didn’t survive cancer, he was able to live three more years after his diagnosis. I believe if he hadn’t had his colonoscopy and discovered his cancer when he did, he would not have lived as long as he did.
Colon cancer is now the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third most common cause of cancer deaths. More than 142,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer each year, and while 90% of them are 50 or older, colon cancer is on the rise for people in their thirties and forties. Typically, a person doesn’t get their first colonoscopy until they are fifty, unless they have a family history.
There are three things that automatically increase your risk of colon cancer- having a family history, being a carrier of the Lynch syndrome gene, or having an inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s Disease. The following lifestyle changes can drastically reduce most people’s risk of colon cancer: maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, exercising regularly, eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet and limiting your sugar and red meats, and getting a yearly physical and blood work. If you are fifty or older, you should get a colonoscopy yearly, but if you carry a high risk of developing colon cancer, you will need to get your first one before age 50.
If you are unsure about what age you need to get your first one, consult your doctor. Consult the infographic below for more information.
Colon cancer is a difficult and often deadly disease, but if caught early, it’s treatable. Making smart lifestyle choices and getting your yearly health screenings can make a huge difference.
Have a great weekend.