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You have the power to prevent one of the deadliest forms of cancer
Most people are taught from an early age not to discuss their bathroom habits. But if more people talked about colon cancer, fewer people might die from the disease.
Just ask Rick Gulledge, a resident of Aubrey, whose brother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007. Just one month later, when Gulledge began experiencing heavy rectal bleeding—a sign of colon cancer—he knew he needed medical attention.
Gulledge was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 47 and had part of his colon and some of his lymph nodes removed. His treatment at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano also included six months of chemotherapy.
So far, Gulledge remains cancer-free. Sadly, his brother wasn’t so lucky, and died just one year after his diagnosis.
“They did everything they could, but they just found my brother’s cancer too late,” Gulledge says. “People need to get screened because it’s the only way they can find it.”
According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer—which includes cancers of the colon and rectum—is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
However, it’s also one of the most preventable forms of cancer, especially if it’s diagnosed early when it can be treated effectively.
“The most important preventive measure is to have a screening as recommended by your doctor,” says Dale Burleson, M.D., a colon and rectal surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano. “A colonoscopy is the best, because it’s both diagnostic and therapeutic.”
Colon cancer usually starts with benign polyps that can become cancerous if they’re not removed. While performing a screening colonoscopy, the doctor can often remove polyps. How often you need a colonoscopy will depend on the results of your first colonoscopy.
Doctors recognize that no one likes getting a colonoscopy, mostly because of the rather unpleasant preparation required the day before.
“We do everything possible to make the entire experience as tolerable as we can, because we want people to come back when it’s time for their next colonoscopy,” says Dr. Burleson.
Do the Right Things
Most people should begin having a screening colonoscopy as their “50th birthday present,” says Dr. Burleson. But if you have a family history of colon cancer, polyps, other gastrointestinal cancers, or gynecological cancers, particularly in young first-degree relatives, you may need to start at age 40 or sooner.
There are other steps you can take to help prevent colon cancer. There’s evidence that a diet high in fiber and leafy green vegetables, and low in animal fat, may reduce your risk.
“Diet, regular exercise and not being overweight are important preventive measures,” Dr. Burleson says, “not just for colon cancer but for other cancers and diseases as well.”
No Time to Waste
Make sure you get the screenings you need. To find a physician on the medical staff at Baylor Plano, call 1.800.4BAYLOR or visit BaylorHealth.com/PlanoCancer.
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