Colon cancer is the third leading cause of death.

The American Cancer Society expects an estimated 50,400 men to be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004. Of these new cases, about 28,320 will die of the disease. In the last 30 years, mortality rates have fallen 31 percent for women diagnosed with colon cancer. Unfortunately, that decline doesn't apply to men, whose mortality rate from colon cancer has only dropped by 9 percent.

Colon cancer is most often detected in men who have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, and inflammatory bowel disease. Other factors that make you at risk include physical inactivity and a high-fat diet and/or a low-fiber diet.

Warning signs of colon cancer include rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, or a change in bowel habits. Most often, however, colon cancer has no symptoms until it's too late. The American Cancer Society recommends a stool blood test and a sigmoidoscopy after the age of 50 to detect colon cancer in patients who don't show any symptoms. These tests offer the best opportunity to remove polyps before they become cancerous.

The morning of your flexible sigmoidoscopy, have a light breakfast. One to two hours before the procedure, take two Fleet enemas. These can be purchased at any drug store.

If your test reveals possible problems, more extensive studies, such as colonoscopy (exam of the entire colon) and barium enema (an X-ray procedure to view the intestines) may be needed.

Remember: When colon cancer is detected early—before it spreads to other parts of the body—the five-year survival rate is 91 percent. If the cancer is not caught in time, five-year survival rates drop to 63 percent.

Information to come.


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