Women Veterans Health Care
Colon Cancer Awareness
Colon cancer is one of the most common diagnoses among both men and women in the United States, and is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women.
The American Cancer Society estimates in 2017 there will be 135,430 new cases of colon and rectal cancer in men and women, resulting in 50,260 deaths. This number exceeds the total number of American combat deaths during the Vietnam War. But it doesn’t have to be. When colon cancer is found, and removed early, the chances of a full recovery are very good.
The most effective way to reduce your risk of colon cancer is by having regular screening tests. It is recommended to begin screening for colon cancer at age 50 years and continuing until age 75 years. It can take as many as 10 to 15 years for a polyp to develop into colon cancer and there may not be noticeable symptoms at first. The risk of getting colon cancer increases as you get older. More than 90 percent of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older.
Are there symptoms?
Colon cancer or polyps that lead to colon cancer often don’t cause symptoms. That is why getting screened regularly for colon cancer is so important. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor:
- Blood in or on your stool.
- Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away.
- Losing weight and you don’t know why.
Colon cancer risks and prevention.
The risk of having colon cancer increases if you are 50 years of age or older, have a family history or personal history of colon cancer, smoke, or have type 2 diabetes.
In addition to lifestyle factors and personal history, there are strong links between diet, weight, and exercise and the risk of colon cancer. To reduce the risk of colon cancer and improve your overall health it is important to:
- Stay at a healthy weight and avoid weight gain around the midsection.
- Stay physically active. Increasing your level of activity lowers your risk of colon cancer and polyps.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Overall, diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (and low in red and processed meats) have been linked with lower colon cancer risk.
- Limit alcohol intake to one drink on any one occasion.
VA’s priority is to screen its patients age 50+ for colon cancer.
- If you are 50 years or older, talk to your VA provider about getting screened and your risk for colon cancer.
- Visit MyHealtheVet website to learn more about colon cancer and prevention.
- Women Veterans can call 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636) to ask questions about available VA services and resources.
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