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40 Force: Colon Cancer – What is Colon Cancer?

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(WGGB) — March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It kills thousands every year, but the good news is that it’s highly preventable and highly treatable.

It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the U.S.

Last year, the American Cancer Society estimates nearly 143,000 people were diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 50,000 will die this year from the disease.

“Colon cancer is a totally preventable disease and it’s preventable because, for the most part, colon cancer does not originate from the normal colon lining. It originates from a polyp,” explains Dr. Ira Schmelkin at Noble Hospital.

Doctors like Dr. Schmelkin call it a polyp-cancer sequence. As we get old, we have a tendency to develop polyps in our colon – small at first, but after a few years, larger and larger.

That increases the chance that the cells within the polyp become cancerous. All the while, we never feel a thing.

They are asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms.

Schmelkin adds, “So when we go in the asymptomatic person, when we find the polyps, as I said about 30 percent of the time, we remove them. We’re getting rid of the lesion that will eventually turn cancerous.”

Detecting and removing polyps is the key. The American Cancer Society recommends getting screened beginning at the age of 50.


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