Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. However, it is a preventable and treatable disease if caught early. A simple screening procedure called a colonoscopy can save your life, says an expert at Baylor College of Medicine.

“The only way of preventing colon cancer is to have regular screenings,” said Dr. Waqar Qureshi, professor of medicine and clinical chief of gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine. “A colonoscopy is the best screening procedure for colon cancer, and it only takes about 20 minutes and is done under sedation, so it’s completely painless.”

The procedure is used to identify polyps in people who have no symptoms and remove them before they develop into cancer.

Most colon cancers start with small growths in the colon called polyps. It takes more than 10 years for polyps to develop into cancer. The slow rate of growth allows doctors to remove polyps before they become cancer. Screening serves to detect cancers earlier, resulting in cancer prevention as well as early diagnosis.                                                                                   

"Usually screenings start at age 50 and continue every 10 years after that," said Qureshi. "However, if a person has a strong family history of colon cancer, he or she may need to be screening sooner.

In addition to regular screenings, Qureshi recommends adopting a healthy lifestyle. Limiting red meat and the amount of saturated fat in your diet, exercising regularly and not smoking will decrease your chances of getting colon cancer and benefit your overall health.