Six Steps to Helping Prevent Colorectal Cancer
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and, according to the American Cancer Society, the disease is both the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. The risk of developing colorectal cancer in a lifetime is about 1 in 19 for men; for women, it is about 1 in 20. More than 90 percent of cases are diagnosed in those over age 50.
“Unfortunately, colorectal cancer has no early warning signs, which means screenings are critical in diagnosing the disease,” says Dr. Ruben Cuadrado, Gastroenterologist at Jackson Purchase Medical Center. “When symptoms do occur, they may include blood in the stool, abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea), unexplained weight loss, or extreme fatigue.”
Colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, and occurs as a result of errors in the way cells grow and repair the lining of the colon.
Dr. Cuadrado recommends the following steps to help prevent the disease:
Get Screened. Beginning at age 50, make a commitment to regular screenings for colorectal cancer. If you have a close relative who has suffered from colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, talk to your doctor about getting screened today. There are several different types of screening tests that may be combined or used alone, including:
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Eat Smart. Medical experts agree that one of the best ways to reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer is to maintain a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Get Moving. Studies show that those who are physically active are 24 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who are not. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, several days per week, whenever possible.
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Also, keep in mind that studies have shown that your body type can influence your risk for developing colorectal cancer. Those with an “apple” shape and those carrying extra weight around the waist are at greatest risk.
Take Your Vitamin D. The American Cancer Society suggests that Vitamin D can reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer by helping the body get rid of its own highly toxic digestive acid. Oral calcium supplements can also help reduce the risk of developing the cancer.
Commit to Being Tobacco Free. Research shows a link between smoking and colorectal cancer, because inhaled or swallowed tobacco smoke transports carcinogens to the colon. Tobacco use has also been shown to increase polyp size.
To learn more about preventing and treating colorectal cancer, visit www.cancer.org and click on Cancer Topics, then Colon and Rectal Cancer.
Search our calendar for Colorectal Cancer Awareness educational events.