How common is colon cancer?

Sabbagh_RanaQ: My aunt is 62 and she has colon cancer. It turns out that polyps are common among my family. I am 39 now. Should I have a screening colonoscopy earlier than 50? Sharon E., Taylor

A: Although you do not have a first degree relative with colorectal cancer, the combination of both colorectal cancer and polyps in relatives could increase your risk. Taking the route of caution and getting screened early is advised. It’s also good to know that when you have documented family history of the disease, insurances allow a screening colonoscopy before the age of 50.

Q: I’ve been hearing many ads lately on the radio warning about colon cancer. How common is it? John T., Wyandotte

A: The American Cancer Society says that excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S. and 132,700 are estimated to be diagnosed this year. The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy says this cancer is most common among senior citizens, approximately 80 to 90 million Americans or 25 percent of the U.S. population.

Q: Is it normal that probiotics prescribed to manage irritable bowel syndrome actually make symptoms worse? Should I keep taking them? Kelly J., Southgate

A: Sometimes it is just the form of the probiotic supplement that may bother you. If you have started taking a hard pill, then try switching to a gummy form or vice versa. Greek yogurt or kefir both have live cultures and are possible alternatives too. If all of these options make your symptoms worse, stop taking them and ask your doctor about an anti-spasm agent.

Rana Sabbagh, M.D., is board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and nutrition. She is the founder of GastroCenter of Michigan and Experior Weight Loss Clinic, 23500 Park St., Suite 2B in Dearborn. Do you have a health question for Dr. Sabbagh? Submit it by email to:

All information provided in Ask The Doctor is intended for your general knowledge. Consult with your personal doctor or pharmacist for any specific health or nutrition issues. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of information you have read in any publication.