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Healthbeat 4: Colorectal Cancer

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Sioux City, Iowa (KTIV) -- "Colon cancer is so prevalent in the U.S. that 1 in 20 is at risk of developing colon cancer," said Dr. Gokul Subhas, Colorectal Surgeon.

It's a startling statistic that grabs our attention.

During this month, the health focus is on colorectal cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the U. S. and among men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.

A local colorectal surgeon reminds us, regular checkups can save lives.

"Currently the guideline says anyone over the age of 50 years should get a colonoscopy for screening," said Dr. Subhas.

Dr. Subhas says if a person has a family history of colon cancers, they should get their screenings done even sooner, before the warning signs appear.

"Also if someone has some warning symptoms, and when I say symptoms, this would include passing blood in their stool or having unexplained weight loss or abdominal pain," said Dr. Subhas.

During a colonoscopy, he says doctors are looking for polyps, because if left alone, those polyps can develop into something much worse.

"So basically what you're doing with a colonoscopy is trying to find these polyps and take out these polyps at an early stage so we're nipping the cancer at an early stage " said Dr. Subhas.

Doctor Subhas says some people might be intimidated by the preparation for a colonoscopy. However, he says nowadays, patients can take lower volume prep liquids and the risks associated with the procedure are minimal.

The procedure itself can be a lifesaving decision.

"Some cancers can be aggressive, but overall, colon cancer is pretty much curable," said Dr. Subhas.

It can be curable, especially if it's caught early.

And there is encouraging news about colon cancer. The doctor says currently, there are more than one-million colon cancer survivors.

Dr. Subhas says avoid processed meat if you can, include anti-oxidants in your diet, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, and exercise.

The American Cancer Society has additional suggestions. Stay at a healthy weight because being overweight or obese increases your risk of dying from colon or rectal cancer. Don’t smoke or quit smoking. Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from the disease. And avoid alcohol, which has been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

Dr. Subhas says there are many theories about what causes colorectal cancer, and genetics may also play a role. If there's a family history of colorectal cancer, get screened early. If there's a family history of colorectal cancer, get screened early. For example, if a mother is diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 50, the children should get their first colonoscopy at 40.

Stella Daskalakis

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