Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall reminds area residents that March is Colon Cancer Awareness month. Recognizing the importance of education on this topic the hospital developed an initiative to help reduce the stigma or fear associated with this disease.

The hospital campaign, Rid Rockwall of Colon Cancer, urges preventative treatment to help reduce the incidence of colon cancer. As the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, colon cancer does not discriminate. Many people believe that it only affects men and primarily only older individuals. However, the truth is that it affects men and women equally and can occur at any age. Therefore, awareness of this disease should be a concern for everyone.

Harry Sarles, MD, Medical Director of Special Procedures, states "The good news is that colon cancer is PREVENTABLE when colonoscopy is used as the preferred screening method, by detecting and removing pre-cancerous polyps. The overall incidence of colon cancer is on the decline because of the impact that screening colonoscopy is having nationwide." For the patient's comfort, a colonoscopy performed at Texas Health Rockwall is carried out under general anesthesia. During a colonoscopy, a tube allows the physician to view the inside of the colon for any potential concerns including polyps. Any polyps that are found can be removed at that time, which can completely erase the potential for cancer to develop from that polyp. There is no pain or discomfort associated with the procedure and the patient can return to work the next day.

Risk factors for colon cancer include: family history, personal history of colon polyps, being over the age of 50, those with Crohn's disease or other gastrointestinal disorders and some ethnic groups. While some of these risk factors are not controllable the other primary risk factor is – diet. Those who have a high fat diet are at a higher risk than the average person. A healthy diet should include lean meats, leafy vegetables, fruits and sweets in moderation. Additionally it is recommended that individuals limit alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco products. The best thing you can do to prevent colon cancer is to be screened as early as age 50 (sooner if you are at a higher risk), maintain a healthy weight and live a healthy lifestyle which includes diet and exercise. By following these steps you can be in the best position to avoid a diagnosis of colon cancer.

To find a gastroenterologist, visit the Texas Health Rockwall website at TexasHealthRockwall.com or speak to your family physician.