Healthwatch: Colon Cancer Prevention, Treatment

The third most common type of cancer is also the third leading cause of cancer deaths. The good news is that colon cancer can be overcome.

In 2008, an estimated 50,000 Americans died from colon cancer it, but there is help available.

"If caught early enough, the survival rates are much, much higher," said Dr. Kevin Ward, a general surgeon at Rush Hospital.

Ward says the most common cause for colon cancer is genetics, and that a diet low in vegetables, along with tobacco use, have also been linked in some degree to the disease.

Being that the colon is part of the digestive system, some of the symptoms of this type cancer include: blood and/or darkening of stool, and smaller and less regular bowel movements. Ward says early detection is key.

"Once colon cancer has spread to the liver, the survival rates are dramatically decreased," said Ward. "So, I would not recommend your fears getting in the way of having an appropriate examination."

A slim tubing is what causes many people to fear a colonoscopy. It's a colonoscope. It's flexible with a camera and lights attached to the tip. It's used to check the colon for polyps. Patients are sedated during the process, which lasts less than 20 minutes.

"If you are mindful of having your screening exams, cancer of the colon at least is not a death sentence," said Ward. "It can be cured with surgery and it's something not to be feared."

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