Men and women approaching age 50 often cringe when their doctor tells them it is almost time to schedule a screening colonoscopy. But regular screening is the key to preventing and detecting possible colon cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, excluding skin cancers, colon cancer is the third most common form of cancer and, caught early, it’s one of the most curable. This is why it is important to know the symptoms and practice prevention methods to keep your colon healthy.
Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, which is the lower part of the digestive system. Typically, it begins as a slow-growing, small growth called a polyp. It is because most cases begin silently and cause few symptoms that regular screening is so important.
There are five easy steps that you can take to help prevent colon cancer and protect your health.
1. Schedule regular screenings
All adults over the age of 50 should begin regular colon cancer screenings. With routine screenings, colon cancer can be found early, when treatment is most effective. A colonoscopy is a painless, 30- to 60-minute procedure that can potentially save your life. These tests look for evidence of actual cancer and precancerous growths known as polyps.
A colonoscopy can do more than detect cancer. It can actually help prevent it by removing polyps before they become cancerous.
2. Know the risk
Knowing the risk associated with colon health issues is important in prevention. These risks include:
• Advancing age, over age 50
• A high fat diet
• Being overweight or obese
• A family history of polyp growths in the colon and rectum
• Type 2 diabetes
• Smoking and alcohol consumption
People who have had colon cancer are at an increased risk of developing it again, so it is important to continue to schedule routine screenings.
3. Know the symptoms
Along with routine scheduled screenings, being aware of the warning signs of colon cancer can potentially save your life. If you notice certain symptoms, you should see your doctor sooner.
Symptoms may include persistent stomach discomfort, a change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or a change in stool consistency), abdominal pain accompanying a bowel movement, dark stools, weakness or fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or blood in the stool (either very bright red or very dark).
While symptoms vary, and certain foods and medications can mimic these symptoms, it is always smart to err on the side of safety.
4. Practice prevention
By choosing a healthy lifestyle, being physically active and maintaining a balanced diet, you will reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. You should include moderate-intensity exercise – at least 30 minutes most days of the week – which helps to build your body’s defenses. This will also help you to maintain a healthy weight and stay stress-free. If you need help to maintain or lose weight, ask your doctor for healthy ways to achieve your goals. Weight loss should be done slowly by increasing your exercise and reducing the number of calories that you consume.
Your diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains which provides the nutrients and antioxidants that help fight disease. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get a wide array of vitamins and nutrients. Limit your intake of red meat and food that’s high in fat or processed.
Finally, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can help, as well. If you choose to drink alcohol then do so in moderation by limiting it to no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. If you need help to quit smoking you can talk to your doctor, who can help find a method that works for you.
5. Know your options
Talking with your doctor is the best way to manage your risk. Your doctor will be able to provide you with the best course of action if you have an above-average risk for colon cancer.
CANCER DOESN’T CARE HOW OLD YOU ARE
According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, 10% of new colon cancer patients are under 50 years of age, and that number is growing. Young-onset patients are often misdiagnosed so know the symptoms and practice prevention to maintain a healthy colon.
KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT COLON CANCER
• Colon cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death in the U.S.
• The average risk of having colon cancer is 1 in 20; however this varies depending on individual risk factors.
• Individuals with a first-degree relative, (i.e., parent, sibling or offspring) who has colon cancer have a risk that is two to three times greater.
• There are currently more than one million colon cancer survivors in the U.S.
Article courtesy of Affinity Medical Center. For more information, consult their website at www.AffinityMedicalCenter.com.
Colon Screening for Cancer