Ask the Expert: What to know about Colon Cancer Prevention

Ask the Expert: Colon Cancer Prevention. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) March is colon cancer awareness month. Since colon cancer is the second leading cancer causing death in the United States, it’s important to know what you can do to prevent the disease.

Prevention starts with getting a colonoscopy. Colonoscopies are recommended for everyone over the age of 50. For African Americans, screening should begin at 45. If you have a family history of the disease – meaning your brother, sister, mom, or dad has been diagnosed with colon cancer – you need to get screened 10 years before they were diagnosed.

Not only is proper screening important in catching colon cancer as early as possible, but it can actually prevent cancer from forming in the first place.

“Your colon doesn’t grow cancer overnight. It initially grows a thing called a polyp. When we do a colonoscopy, we find a polyp and we remove it,” says Dr. Tae Kim, an oncology surgeon and Intermountain LDS Hospital’s Chief of Surgery.

One in five patients over the age of 50 will find something that needs to be removed. Most of the time, if something is found during a colonoscopy, it can be removed right then and there. If it’s an advanced cancer or a large polyp, then a follow up procedure may be required.

Often times there are no symptoms of colon cancer until it has grown or spread which is why routine screening is so important in saving lives.

“If we can prevent the cancer when it’s just started, we can cure those guys 90-95% of the time,” says Dr. Kim.