Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 22 for men and 1 in 24 for women.

Dr. Nader Hanna, an expert in colorectal cancer, answers common questions about the disease, including how you can help prevent it, symptoms and who is most at risk.

How can you prevent colorectal cancer?

Increase consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and fibers, and less consumption of red and processed meat. Also, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and, for the average risk person, be sure to get a screening colonoscopy at age 50.

Who is most at risk for developing the disease?

Patients with:

  • Hereditary colon cancer syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
  • Personal history of colon cancer or polyps
  • Family history of colon cancer, especially if at a young age

What are the most common signs/symptoms?

If you're experiencing rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, changes in bowel movements lasting more than 4 weeks, black tarry stools, anemia, weight loss, fatigue, persistent abdominal discomfort and/or change in the caliber of stools, you should consult your physician.

What's your advice for someone who was recently diagnosed?

Seek treatment where there is a multi-disciplinary care team, and keep a positive attitude.

What is your patient care philosophy?

I believe in treating the patient as a whole, not just the cancer.

Dr. Hanna is a Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Director of Clinical Operations for the Division of General & Oncologic Surgery.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Hanna at our Columbia location, please call 410-328-7320.