Early detection of colon cancer can save lives

March 30, 2004

Mammograms and Pap tests have saved many lives by detecting early, curable cancers at a reasonable cost and minimal inconvenience. Many more lives could be saved if there were more testing for colon cancer, which is a fairly common disease, but one which can be cured with a high success rate if caught early through testing.

Although these tests often are uncomfortable or unpleasant, they could well save your life or the life of your spouse. Catching colon cancer early is the surest way of eliminating it completely.

A colonoscopy – looking up the length of the colon with a fiberoptic tube containing a light on the end – has been recommended by the American Cancer Society for all those 50 and older. You should ask your doctor if he/she recommends this test.

A less intrusive test is providing a physician with three small samples of your stool by using what is called a Hemoccult kit. This test, completed at a medical laboratory, detects microscopic amounts of blood in the stool, which is a warning sign of colon cancer. The test is inexpensive and the kit is available through your physician’s office. Many physicians recommend this simple test annually regardless of how well you feel.

You also can do a lot to help yourself to better health through better living habits such as an improved diet, regular exercise and by not smoking.

Additionally, you should always be alert for any suspicious symptoms – such as a change in bowel habits or visible blood in the stool – and report to your physician immediately. Your physician is best equipped to provide you with the tips and tools you need to stay healthy and, in any case, you should obtain a physical examination annually – especially if you are at least 50 years old.