Researchers: Half of colon cancer deaths can be prevented

The American Cancer Society estimates that this year alone doctors will diagnose more than 140,000 new cases of colon cancer nationwide and 50,000 people will die from the disease. Meanwhile, researchers say more than half of those could be prevented with regular screenings. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

On 52-year-old Ileana Mendoza’s first routine colonoscopy doctor’s found a polyp, an abnormal growth of tissue in her colon. If left undetected.. it could have caused problems down the road.

“i have a history with my family, so I don’t want to be waiting until the last minute and not being able to do anything for myself,” said Mendoza. “Let’s not forget we have kids and grandkids we want to see growing.”

Mendoza’s doctor says she frequently sees patients with symptoms that indicate they already have a serious problem.

“Patients come to us with symptoms, alarm symptoms, we call them,” said Dr. Andrea Culligord, a gastroenterologist. “Things like weight loss that’s unintentional, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain. And when they have these symptoms, it’s really something we need to investigate by doing a diagnostic test called a colonoscopy.”

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among adults nationwide. By catching polyps or cancer early, more than half of those lives could be saved. Guidelines shows screenings should start at age 50, then every 10 years if results are normal, and age 40 if you have a family history.

In addition to screenings, diet makes a difference. “You really want to eat a high fiber diet,” said Culligord. “Fresh fruits and vegetables and 25 grams of fiber a day. The link there is mainly with high cholesterol, obesity, and high fat diets.”

Doctors say working on the factors we can control will help keep us healthy.