Screening key to finding colon cancer, preventing death

Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 11:18 AM MST
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(CNN) - It’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in U.S. men and women combined, but regular screening for colorectal cancer is key to preventing deaths.

In honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, experts are reminding you to take care of your colon.

In May 2009, Michael Sapienza lost his mother to colorectal cancer.

“There’s really one reason why she died, and it’s because she did not get screened and she did not get checked,” he said. That’s why he started the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, to promote awareness.

This type of cancer is expected to cause more than 52,000 in the U.S. this year alone, according to the American Cancer Society. But the overall death rate has dropped the past several decades, thanks to screening tools and treatments.

Screening can find signs of colorectal cancer early, when it’s easier to treat and prevent.

“For the general public, the screening age, just about a year ago, dropped to 45, so everybody that’s at average risk should get screened at 45,” Sapienza said.

Those at high risk should talk to their doctor about whether to start screening earlier than 45.

While there’s no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer, there are other ways to lower your risk.

“One is a diet high in fiber. Two is exercise. Regular 30 minutes a day, five days a week, etc., absolutely reduces your risk for colon cancer,” Sapienza said.

Limiting red and processed meats, drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking may also help. But getting screened is one of the most powerful prevention tools.

”If you get a screening, you can actually prevent that from happening. You can prevent those adenomas, or what we call polyps, from actually growing into cancer,” Sapienza said.

Those not at high risk of colorectal cancer can perform home stool tests to help in screening for the disease. Talk to your doctor about the tests and whether they’re right for you.

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