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Colon Health

Colon cancer is often thought of as a men’s disease but it is the third leading cause of cancer death among women (after lung and breast cancer). It is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men.

Colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) develops in the part of your large intestine (bowel) that leads into your rectum.

1 in 16 women will develop colon cancer in her lifetime; 1 in 32 women will die of the disease
Colon cancer develops from small growths of tissue in your bowel and rectum called polyps. Screening tests detect non-cancerous growths (polyps) and cancer in the colon before any signs or symptoms develop – in the early stages when it is easiest to treat. Treatment involves removing the polyps before they turn into cancer. If found early enough, 90 out of 100 people live five years after a diagnosis of colon cancer.

The biggest risk factor for colon cancer is being over 50 years of age. Every year in BC, there are close to 3,000 new cases of colon cancer – 94 out of 100 of these cancers are in women and men 50 years of age and older.

Other risk factors:
  • having an immediate family (parents, siblings, children) history of colon cancer
  • having a personal history of adenomas (non-cancerous tumours)

There are two screening tests that BC Cancer recommends for women and men 50 years of age and older to prevent colon cancer:

  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) – every 2 years if you do not have a significant family history of colon cancer or a personal history of adenomas (non-cancerous tumours).
  • Colonoscopy – every 5 years if you are at a higher than average risk of colon cancer (have a family history of colon cancer or personal history of adenomas).
Talk to your healthcare provider about which test is right for you.

FIT detects blood in your stool (poop) which can be a sign of pre-cancer. In BC you can get an order form for a free FIT test kit from your doctor. You pick up the kit from a laboratory (lab) and do the test yourself at home by following the instructions in your kit.

Visit Screening BC for more information about the FIT test.

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure done in a clinic or hospital that uses a colonoscope (thin tube-like instrument with a tiny camera) to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps and cancer. Tissue samples can be collected and abnormal growths removed during a colonoscopy.

There are some exceptions - if you are experiencing symptoms which may indicate cancer such as blood in your stool, abdominal pain, change in bowel habits, or weight loss, talk to your healthcare provider about other testing options.
In addition to getting regular screening tests, there are other things you can do to help prevent colon cancer:
  • Be physically active. Research shows being active on a regular basis reduces your risk of colon cancer.
  • Eat well. Eating foods high in fibre (vegetables, whole grains) and limiting the amount of red and processed meats you eat reduces your risk of colon cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being active and eating well helps you get to or stay at a weight that is right for your body.
  • Limit alcohol. Research shows having no more than 2 drinks on most days and 10 per week reduces long-term health risks for colon cancer and other health conditions.

  • Quit smoking. Reduce your risk of cancer by getting help to quit smoking. 
Visit QuitNow BC to get help to quit smoking.

SOURCE: Colon Health ( )
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