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Keep Your Colon Healthy With Exercise, Healthy Foods
Date:3/9/2009

U-M expert says regular colon cancer screening should start at age 50

ANN ARBOR, Mich., March 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Most adults would rather keep talk about colons behind the bathroom door.

It's time to talk, says Kim Turgeon, MD, FACP, gastroenterologist in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System.

Regular wear and tear on the colon can cause little out-pockets called diverticula in one in three adults over the age of 65.

They are sometimes more common when there is persistent constipation, which causes people to strain to pass stool that is too hard. The high pressure from straining causes the weak spots in the colon to bulge out and become diverticula.

While not dangerous in and of themselves, if diverticula get plugged with waste they can become infected and cause diverticulitis, which can result in serious complications, including cancer, and very rarely, death.

"Colon problems are actually quite common throughout a person's life, from childhood, through teen years, and adulthood," says Turgeon. "Regular cancer screening of the colon should start at the age of 50."

The colon's job is to remove water from the stool to make waste a compact, formed product when it leaves the large intestine (colon).

Diverticula form in areas of the colon where blood vessels go through the muscle wall, which make those areas weaker.

The colon is also an area with high levels of bacteria, which are performing important functions, says Turgeon.

Bacteria can begin to grow in plugged diverticula and start irritating the surface and cause infection.

As one ages, diverticula tend to increase in numbers in the colon and are more likely to plug, become infected and bleed.

Diverticuli can appear in the colon in a wide range of numbers -- from
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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