Published: Jan. 10, 2007
Updated: July 28, 2010
With about 135,000 new cases diagnosed each year, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States, just behind malignancies of the lung, breast, and prostate. The nation's second-leading cause of cancer deaths, it kills more than 55,000 Americans each year.
Yet -- when caught early -- colorectal cancer is among the most treatable of all types of cancer.
Unlike many other cancers that can appear suddenly and grow quickly, colon cancer has a long precancerous phase as growths or polyps, which often exist for several years before becoming cancerous. If these growths are discovered and removed promptly, colon cancer can be prevented. Even after colorectal cancer has developed, it's 90 percent curable when found early.
Many people who are otherwise conscientious about their health seem to practice a "see-no-evil, hear-no-evil" approach when it comes to protecting themselves against colorectal cancer.
As a result, only a fraction of the people who could benefit from colorectal screening actually receive it. But the prevalence of this malignancy -- and the relative ease with which it can be diagnosed and treated in its early stages -- offer compelling reasons to get past the reticence.
New surgical techniques and drug therapies are improving outcomes, extending lives, and enhancing quality of life for colon cancer patients. But, as with any type of cancer, an ounce of prevention is worth the proverbial pound of cure.
To minimize your risk of developing full-blown colorectal cancer, consider the following tips.
While colorectal cancer is a serious disease, if it is found and treated early, the prognosis is excellent. So, to avoid regrets later, take steps to prevent colorectal cancer now.