SAN ANTONIO – March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and the UT Health Science Center is using a 10-feet-tall by 20-feet-long inflatable tunnel to illustrate how colon cancer develops and how it can be prevented. The key, doctors say, is simple: Early testing.
Although it is sometimes an embarrassing subject, it is one that needs serious attention. Colon cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer death.
"Nobody really wants to talk about their colon, but if you get your colon checked out early, then you can actually prevent cancer from happening," said Dr. Sukeshi Patel, with the Medical Oncology department at UT Health Science Center.
Patel said those with a history of cancer in their family should get checked out at age 40 or earlier. If not, men and women need to get tested when they turn 50.
"One out of 20 people get cancer, but 90 percent of those are after the age of 50. So most people will be able to prevent a cancer if they get a colonoscopy at 50," Patel said.
If polyps are found and not removed, over time, they could become malignant and then turn into cancer. That would mean that major surgery could be the only option left.
"We know that if you catch it early, it is curable," Patel said.
If anyone wants to know their risk of developing colon and rectal cancer, the University Health System website has a list of health risk assessments.