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Dr. H. Whitney Jennings Shares Colon Cancer Prevention Expertise

In the wake of the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, famed actor best known for his role as T’Challa in the 2018 film Black Panther, from colon cancer, many people have questions about the disease, especially its risk.  

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths when men and women are combined, and more than 50,000 Americans die from colorectal cancer annually. More than 90 percent of colon cancers occur in people over the age of 50.

Speaking virtually with Alicia Roberts, anchorwoman for CBS46 news, Dr. H. Whitney Jennings, a Gastroenterologist for Harbin Clinic shared that colon cancer can be one of the most preventable cancers when detected early. To best identify risk, Dr. Jennings recommended that colonoscopies should be done at age 45 if you have a family history or are African American.

“We encourage everyone, age 50 and over, to talk to their primary care physician about screening for colon cancer.” Harbin Clinic Gastroenterologist Dr. H. Whitney Jennings says. “It’s vital to get screened, because the earlier we can catch the cancer, the better chance you have of beating it.”

Screening Can Save Lives

The expert physicians at Harbin Clinic Gastroenterology Endoscopy and GI Lab use the most innovative and cutting-edge screening technologies and methods for detecting colorectal cancer, including a colonoscopy.

“Colon cancer is preventable by identifying and removing precancerous polyps that are detected with a screening colonoscopy,” says Dr. Jennings. “Patients typically have monitored anesthesia care during the colonoscopy. The patient will be asleep which allows them to have a comfortable experience during the procedure.”

A colonoscopy is a routine procedure that uses a thin, flexible tube, known as a colonoscope, to view the entire length and inner lining of the large intestine, including the colon and rectum. Colonoscopies are also performed to identify tumors, ulcers, inflammation, bleeding and other intestinal issues.

This method of screening detects colon polyps, or abnormal growths of tissue, which can turn cancerous over time. The vast majority of polyps can be removed during a routine colonoscopy, therefore preventing the development of colon cancer. Colonoscopies also help identify ulcers, tumors, areas of bleeding or inflammation and other intestinal problems.

Know Your Risk

The American Cancer Society reports that 1 in 3 Americans are not up to date with colorectal cancer screenings and the number of people diagnosed under the age of 50 is rapidly increasing.

Many lifestyles and family history factors have been linked to colorectal cancer, such as:

  • Age – the risk of colon cancer increases with age and is more common after age 50.
  • Alcohol – moderate to heavy alcohol use has been linked to colon cancer. Limiting alcoholic drinks to 1 to 2 a day may have many health benefits and decrease your risk of cancer. 
  • Nutrition – a diet that’s high in red and processed meats may raise your risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Family history – approximately 1 in 3 people diagnosed with colon cancer have family history of the disease.
  • Overweight – the risk of developing or dying from colon cancer is much higher for those that are overweight or obese. The link between colon cancer and having a larger waistline is greater in men.
  • Personal history – having history of adenomatous polyps increases your risk of developing colon cancer again, even if it was completely removed the first time.
  • Physical inactivity – the lack of physical activity increases your chance of developing colon cancer. Increasing your physical exercise can help lower your risk.
  • Smoking – the use of tobacco products over a long period of time increases the chance of developing and dying from colon cancer.

The physicians at Harbin Clinic Gastroenterology and Hepatology provide personalized, comprehensive care for the digestive tract and liver diseases. Should you or anyone you know experience persistent symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, a bloody stool, weakness or fatigue, our team is ready to provide complete care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit:

Published September 1, 2020

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