The month of March is designated as Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. The Health and Wellness Committee would like to raise awareness regarding colorectal cancer and take action towards prevention.
What Is Colorectal Cancer:
Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. The colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.. Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps locate polyps at an early stage of the disease, when treatment often leads to a cure.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, for men and women combined, in the United States. It affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people age 50 and older. More than 90% of cases occur in this age group.
What Are The Risk Factors:
While we do not know the exact cause of most colon cancers, there are certain known risk factors. A risk factor is something that affects a person’s chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be controlled. Others, such as a person’s age, cannot be changed. Researchers have found some risk factors that may increase a person’s chance of getting polyps or colorectal cancer include;
-Age: your risk gets higher as you get older
-Having a history of cancer or certain types of polyps before
-Having a history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
-Family history of colorectal cancer
-Type 2 diabetes
-Certain hereditary factors, such as familial adenomatous polyposis
Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colon cancer include;
-Lack of regular physical exercise
-Low fruit and vegetable intake
-A low fiber and high fat diet
-Overweight and obesity
-Heavy alcohol use
Signs and Symptoms:
Colon cancer does not always cause symptoms at first. That is why getting screenings regularly is so important. Symptoms may include:
-Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don’t go away
-Loss of weight, unintended
-A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
-A feeling of fullness after a bowel movement, as if you need to have another bowel movement
-Blood in the stool
-Weakness and fatigue
If you should notice any of these symptoms, talk to your Doctor at once. These symptoms could be caused by something other than cancer, the only way to know the cause is to have an exam by your Physician.
How To Reduce My Risk of Colon Cancer:
Almost all colon cancers begin as precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum. Such polyps can be present in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. They may not cause any symptoms. Colorectal screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colon cancer is prevented. Screening can also find the precancerous polyps early, when there is a greater chance of treatment being most effective and lead to a cure.
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened regularly starting at age 50. Since there are often no signs or symptoms, it is important to have screenings as indicated by the American Cancer Society, and to incorporate these healthy steps into your life-style.
-Begin screenings, colonoscopy, fecal occult blood test, (as indicated by your Dr.) starting at age 50
-Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
-Get active and eat healthy
-Limit red, and processed meats
-Get recommended levels of calcium and Vitamin D in your diet
-Genetic testing may be indicated if risk factors are high
Source: American Cancer Society Publication: Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Early Detection