Colorectal cancer isn’t a term that most people hear of on a regular basis, but it can be a dangerous issue for many Americans. In fact, it’s the fourth leading cancer of both new cancers detected (not counting carcinoma skin cancers) and cancer deaths.
So, what should you know about preventing colorectal cancers and how you can protect yourself better? Here are five steps you can take right now.
- Learn Risk Factors
As with any disease, a variety of factors can increase your risk of developing colon or rectal cancer. If you have a family history of colorectal cancers as well as familial adenomatous nonpolyposis, you’re at higher risk from genetics. In addition, higher natural risk factors include being over 50, being African-American, having diabetes, and having chronic inflammatory diseases.
- Eat Healthy
Lifestyle factors can also increase your risk. The good news is that you are often able to control some of these and therefore reduce your overall chances of developing colorectal cancers. Take control of your diet to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
Good nutrition helps your body function well on all levels. Eating a diet rich with varied fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps provide the minerals and nutrients your body needs. Avoid red meats, such as beef and pork, and highly-processed meats (like sausage and hot dogs) as well. These meats may actually increase your risk of colon related cancers.
Eating healthier also helps you reduce overall body mass, reducing risk factors from being overweight.
- Get Exercise
Like eating healthier, regular exercise is good for the entire body. Look for enjoyable activities that are consistent with your age and physical limitations, and then engage in them more often. Activity helps your body function well and it keeps your weight down — reducing obesity and hypertension, which are risk factors for many diseases that Americans often overlook.
- Stop Smoking
If you’re still smoking, seek help quitting. Long-term smokers have a higher chance of developing and dying from colorectal cancers, in addition to developing other types of cancers. Smoking also affects your overall health, so quit if you want to be a healthier person.
- Get Screened
Stellis Health recommends that you begin getting screened for colon and rectal cancer at age 50 unless you have a higher risk. There are several ways to be screened and we focus on three strategies:
- Colonoscopy. A standard colonoscopy examines the colon using a lighted tube along with air inserted into the colon to help make its walls more visible. Any abnormal growths are removed during the exam. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years for patients at average risk.
- Fecal occult blood test. Since polyps often produce blood in the stool, your doctor may be able to screen you by testing for tiny amounts of such blood in your waste. A FOBT needs to be done every year and if it is abnormal a follow-up colonoscopy would be recommended.
- Cologuard (DNA test). Cologuard is a test that analyzes stool DNA to detect 11 distinct biomarkers that identify cancer and precancer. Cologuard tests are recommended every three years and if abnormal DNA changes are found, a follow-up colonoscopy would be recommended.
Discuss your situation with your doctor to determine the best screening method for you. Screening as a whole has vastly reduced the development of new cancers, so it’s a conversation worth having at any age.
Talk With Your Doctor
If you feel you have any risk factors that increase your chances of developing colorectal cancers, talk with your medical provider to learn more. And if you want to make major lifestyle changes to increase your whole body health, consult with your doctor to find out how to safely and effectively do so.
At Stellis Health, we are your partners in whole health care. Make an appointment today to discuss any concerns you have and learn more about your options.