One test that can save your life

Few people realize that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in North America. And, tragically, by the time it’s diagnosed, the malignancy has spread to other organs in 55 per cent of the cases.

This doesn’t have to happen. About 95 per cent of colon cancers begin in existing polyps. If the polyps are removed, you won’t have to die from this malignancy.

These soft, fleshy growths originate on the inside lining of the bowel. It’s estimated that one person in three over the age of 50 has one or more polyps. Fortunately, they don’t always become cancerous, but studies show that after 10 years, 10 per cent become malignant and after 20 years, the rate rises to 25 per cent.

So what’s the best approach for preventing colon cancer? Under ideal circumstances, everyone over the age of 40 should have an initial colonoscopy. This procedure examines the entire large bowel by means of an optical instrument. If polyps are present, they’re removed at that time. The problem is there are not enough trained doctors to do the test on everyone over the age of 40.

If you’re lucky and live in an area where colonoscopy is available, don