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4 tips to protect your colon

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By Robert Bresalier, M.D.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States, and the third leading cause of cancer death.

Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum, and grows slowly. In 2014, there will be an estimated 141,000 new colorectal cancer cases in the United States and 49,000 related deaths.  But colorectal cancer is preventable and curable when detected early.

Here are my top four tips to help lower your risks for colorectal cancer:

Tip 1: Get screened for colorectal cancer
Screening remains the most important method to prevent colorectal cancer. People at average risk, age 50 and older, should get a colonoscopy every 10 years. A colonoscopy enables your doctor to detect potentially cancer-causing lesions or polyps early, and remove them.

Tip 2: Don't be afraid of the exam 
Patients shouldn't fear a colonoscopy. It's a straight-forward procedure which doesn't, in most cases, cause discomfort. It also has a very low complication rate. And, knowing what is going on in your colon could save your life.

Tip 3: Prep the right way for a colonoscopy
Most people complain about the laxative preparation. It requires that you drink a large volume of liquid that generally doesn't taste very good. However, we now split the liquid into two doses. You drink one the night before the exam and the second four to six hours before the exam. And, there have been efforts at improving the taste.

The laxative procedure is very important. It ensures that your colon is completely clean for your exam. And, a clean colon means your doctor can spend more time carefully examining you.

Tip 4: Plan for what happens next
Prevention doesn't stop once you've had a colonoscopy. You and your doctor need to discuss what happens next. Your doctor can create a personalized screening plan for you based on your risk. That way, you can get screened at intervals that are effective for you.

Watch this video to learn additional ways that you can lower your risk for colorectal cancer, such as eating healthy and getting enough sleep. 

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