Colon cancer is the third most common type of non-skin cancer in both men and women.
It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States after lung cancer.
Research has shown that if colon cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat.
Currently, many tests are available that can detect colon cancer during its early stages.
One standard method to check the disease is a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy uses a tool called a colonoscope to see inside your colon.
Doctors look for cancer as well as pre-cancerous growths called polyps.
Polyps are common in people older than 50 years of age, and most are not cancer. However, a certain type of polyp may have a higher risk of becoming cancer.
Doctors can remove any polyps they find during the colonoscopy. This can prevent the polyps from developing into cancer.
Other tests can be performed at home, including stool sample testing.
The test requires you to collect a sample of stool (feces) and send it to a lab. The lab then looks for tiny amounts of blood in the stool or other signs, like cancer-specific DNA.
Recently, a newer screening test has been developed. It is called a virtual colonoscopy.
The test uses X-rays to see inside the colon. If a doctor sees polyps with this test, they can remove them later with a colonoscopy.
Researchers from the NIH suggest most people start screening for colon cancer at the age of 50.
People who have a family history of the disease may need to start screening earlier.
It is important to talk to doctors about what type of screening would be best for you.
The major risk factors for colon cancer are a family history of the disease and older age, but several other factors have been linked to increased risk, including excessive alcohol drinking, obesity, being physically inactive, cigarette smoking, and, possibly, diet.
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