Experts from NewYork-Presbyterian Offer Tips on How to Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer

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March Is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, is often preventable and highly curable.

Colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, is often preventable and highly curable.

“It’s important for people to understand that if they are eligible for colon cancer screening, they shouldn’t procrastinate. That’s why my colleagues and I are promoting the ‘80 percent by 2018’ campaign initiated by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. The ultimate goal is to have 80 percent of the eligible population screened for colon cancer by 2018,” says Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, a gastroenterologist and director of The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Ravi P. Kiran, chief and program director of the Division of Colorectal Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, adds, “Educational awareness is key to fighting this disease. As more people get screened on time, we can work to reduce the overall rate of colon cancer cases in this country. With proper screening, colon cancer can not only be detected early, but often can be prevented from developing.”

Drs. Schnoll-Sussman and Kiran provide six facts that everyone should know to help reduce their risk of colon cancer:

  •     Get screened—it could save your life.

Screening can detect early cancers, as well as polyps before they become cancer. Men and women should begin screening at age 50.

  •     Screening for colorectal cancer is effective.

The death rate from colorectal cancer has been falling in recent years, largely due to the adoption of widespread screening. Screening can detect cancer early, or—even more importantly—can find polyps that could become cancer if left undiscovered.

  •     Screening is done when you feel well.

Colon polyps and early cancers often cause no symptoms. You could have a precancerous polyp or even colon cancer and not know it. This is why screening—before symptoms occur—is essential!

  •     Know your risk factors.

Certain risk factors may require screening to be performed at a younger age. These include inflammatory bowel disease, a personal or family history of colon cancer, large colon polyps or certain hereditary conditions that can cause colon cancer, such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). Ask your doctor about when to start screening if you have any of these risk factors.

  •     Put down that cigarette and get moving.

There are a few lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk, such as quitting smoking, avoiding excess intake of red and processed meats, maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising. Smokers also have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Replace those cigarettes with colorful fruits and vegetables!

  •     Remember, colon cancer does not discriminate.

One in 20 people are diagnosed with cancer of the colon or rectum in their lifetime and the disease affects both men and women. While those with a family history of colon polyps or cancer are at increased risk and need to begin screening at a younger age, the vast majority of people who develop colon cancer have no family history of the disease.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive hospitals and a leading provider of inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine. With some 2,600 beds and more than 6,500 affiliated physicians and 20,000 employees, NewYork-Presbyterian had more than 2 million visits in 2013, including close to 15,000 infant deliveries and more than 310,000 emergency department visits. NewYork-Presbyterian comprises six campuses: NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. The hospital is also closely affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area, according to U.S. News & World Report, and consistently named to the magazine’s Honor Roll of best hospitals in the nation. Affiliated with two world-renowned medical schools, Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. For more information, visit http://www.nyp.org.

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Jackie Shutack
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
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