How To Prevent Colon Cancer
An unhealthy lifestyle and other inherent factors can increase the risk of developing many types of cancer. Colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is this type of cancer. Although it doesn’t receive as much attention as other, higher-profile cancers, it’s considered to be the third most common cancer in the U.S. The good news? 75% of all colon cancer cases can be prevented due to reducing controllable risk factors associated with it. Therefore, it’s important to take charge of our health and encourage family members to do the same by using the preventative tips below.
Get Regular Screenings
One of the best ways to protect yourself from colon cancer is to take regular screening tests. Each are designed to catch cancer symptoms in early stages when it’s most treatable. One of the most recognizable is the existence of polyps which are abnormal growths in your colon. Although they may not be cancerous at first, polyps do run a higher risk of developing into cancer. Whatever the case, most people should begin regular screenings by age 45 every five-10 years unless otherwise requested by your doctor.
Here are a few of the screenings typically provided by a colon doctor (also known as gastroenterologists):
- Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)/Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) – normally done once a year, this test looks for hidden blood in the patient’s stool, which may be a sign of colon cancer. Small samples are taken at home and then sent to a lab for testing.
- Colonoscopy – One of the most well-known tests, this is applied by using a small, flexible tube with a camera on the end to fully examine the inside of the colon. The patient is sedated for the procedure, so be sure to have a ride home scheduled beforehand. If polyps are discovered, they can be instantly removed during this procedure. The average visit to a facility which administers this test is usually every five years.
- Virtual Colonoscopy – This testing procedure uses a special CT scan which creates a detailed 3D image of the inside of the patient’s colon. A small tube is inserted into the patient and gently inflated with air. This scan takes about two minutes and is repeated every five years.
Colon cancer is most often considered a food-related cancer due to the higher risk of development from what we eat and drink. Everything we consume passes over the lining of our digestive tract which ultimately ends up as waste, digestive fluids, bile acids and fiber in our large intestine and lower end of the digestive tube. Food chemicals, hormones and secretions as well as bacteria, both healthy and unhealthy end up there as well. Bad eating habits are considered a top contender for developing colon cancer.
Another huge cancer risk is eating red meat. Excessively eating red meat such as steak, hamburger and pork increases the risk of colon cancer. Also, processed meats like bacon, sausage and bologna increases the risk even more. The best practice is to limit your consumption to no more than three servings each week. Less is even better.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
As with many other risk-related health issues, being overweight or obese can be factors in developing colon cancer. Therefore, the best advice is to lose weight and create a healthy food regimen (see your doctor fitness specialist, dietician, etc. first). The weight you lose is a more beneficial factor than the weight you gain.
Being physically active and in shape is not only beneficial to your colon, but it also reduces the risk of many other illnesses and helps boost your physical and mental wellness. If you haven’t been physically active for a while, see your doctor or fitness specialist to determine what activities you need that best work for you. If you can put in at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity, you’re ahead of the game. Also, consider things you enjoy doing like brisk walks, cycling, dancing, jogging or exercising.
Do You Smoke? Stop. Now.
If you do smoke, the very best thing you can do is quit – NOW! Smoking is a major cause of at least 14 different cancers including colon cancer. Quitting has real benefits which start shortly after your last cigarette. Finding it hard to quit? Then call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit smokefree.gov. A visit to your doctor can also double your chances for success.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
For now, alcohol is considered heart healthy in moderation but becomes a huge risk factor for colon and other cancers at levels above 1-2 drinks per day. If you do drink in moderation, there’s really no reason to quit. If you don’t drink alcohol, then why start?
Consume Calcium, Vitamin D and Multivitamins Containing Folate
Taking 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and about 1,000 international units (IU) per day of vitamin D can help prevent colon cancer. Also, standard multivitamins contain folate, which has been shown in various studies to help lower the risk of colon cancer.
Other Risk Factors
There are other risk factors which we can’t control, such as old age, family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and being tall. If you’re concerned any of these apply to you, understand your risk and take steps to lower it. If you are seeking colon cancer doctor in San Antonio, the specialists at the Digestive & Liver Disease of San Antonio can create a treatment plan just for you. Call (210) 941-1662 or visit our website to get started today.