Cancer is a global killer, and one of the major challenges we face in fighting it is that it can take many forms and thus be tricky to detect.
One of the more common and potentially challenging of these forms is colon cancer. Your best defence against it is knowledge of what to look for and an understanding of how dangerous it can be, so here are some facts and figures to bring you up to speed.
In the US alone over 100,000 people receive the news that they have colon cancer, which puts it at number 3 on the list of the most widespread cancers around.
Thankfully this figure has actually fallen over the past quarter-century, with improved screening processes and lifestyle changes helping to lessen the number of Americans who contract this disease.
One of the methods for detecting colon cancer sooner is a colonoscopy. And as this ultimate guide to colonoscopy procedures explains, this process is crucial in both diagnosing and preventing colon cancer cases.
While certain forms of cancer are more common in men than women and vice versa, colon cancer is not picky about your gender.
Men have a marginally higher likelihood of contracting it over the course of a lifetime, with a 4.3% rate of occurrence compared with the 4% rate seen in women. This means that everyone who is eligible for screening should take advantage of this.
Thanks to the early detection and treatment of colon cancer discussed above, around 1.5 million people in the US are survivors of this disease.
Even so, over 50,000 people still die from its effects annually, and an increase in fatalities has been recorded among the under-55s, in spite of a downward trend overall when every age group is factored in.
As well as making use of screening services, it is sensible to be savvy when it comes to the factors which put you at greater risk of contracting colon cancer.
As with many forms of cancer, a lack of physical exercise in addition to being overweight or obese will place you in a higher risk group.
Diet is also relevant in this case, as if you eat a lot of pork, beef and lamb, as well as meats that have been heavily processed during manufacturing, your digestive system will be exposed to more carcinogens over the years.
Smoking and drinking alcohol should also be taken into account when calculating how likely it is that colon cancer will arise in a person. Minimizing your intake or completely quitting either of these activities will prolong your life for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is preventing colon cancer.
Pre-existing conditions are associated with colon cancer as well, with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), type 2 diabetes and a host of other issues included in this list. Speaking with a physician to get a better idea of your risk rates based on your own medical history, as well as that of your family members, is sensible.
Colon cancer can be a destructive force, and the figures mentioned above might startle you if you were unaware of how widespread and fatal it is in the US.
However, there is also plenty of positive news to take away with you. So long as you get screened and do not procrastinate on seeking treatment if you experience abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, then you will have less to fear from this disease.