I want to talk to you today about your colon- an internal organ that gets ignored. And ignoring problems with your colon can be fatal.

Colon cancer is serious.  Colon cancer is the second most populous cancer among men and women. It continues to affect the lives of those diagnosed and their families. It is estimated that more than 50,000 people will die from colon cancer this year. And this is just in the United States.

Not to sound too gloom and doom, but colon cancer symptoms are often ignored. There are a lot of misconceptions that make the disease spread rampantly. For starters, colon cancer is characterized as  “man’s disease,” meaning it only affects men. This could be further from the truth. Women only trail men by colon cancer diagnosis by seven percent. This disease affects men and women almost equally, and men AND women should be cautious about it.

Colon cancer is cancer in the digestive tract. The cancer fuels tissue growth that cannot be controlled and form polyps in the large intestine. A polyp is a mucous growth. Most polyps are not cancerous but they can turn cancerous, which is why polyps are often removed when found. It can take years for a polyp to turn cancerous, so why the big deal? Well, when is the last time you have had your colon inspected?

The symptoms of colon cancer are often mistaken as another ailment or disease which makes it difficult to catch. Women who are pregnant are often not diagnosed with colon cancer because the symptoms- rectal bleeding, nausea, vomiting- are similar to pregnancy symptoms. If you ignore the symptoms for years (which is easy to do), you give more time for potential polyps to fester and grow into cancerous growths. Other symptoms are also easily explained away, such as constipation, stomach cramps and gas.

Colon cancer is fast growing and very difficult to treat, which is why it has a high fatality rate. That is why the medical community touts that “prevention is the best treatment.” No one wants to say that it is deadly if left undetected long enough, but that is the simple truth.

Prevention for colon cancer is simple: get regular screenings. Screenings generally take the form of a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is when your doctor will use a long tube to examine the inside of your colon and rectum. Ouch. Thankfully, you shouldn’t feel or even remember the procedure, and many people complain that preparing for a colonoscopy is worse than the actual thing. Preparing for a colonoscopy can be torturous because you must remove any fecal matter from your colon, which often requires a clear liquid cleanse.

So when should you start getting a colonoscopy? Colon cancer incidents are higher the older you are. You should schedule your first colonoscopy at age 50.

If you are experiencing any symptoms, schedule a visit with your doc. Sure, it might be nothing. But it can also save your life.

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