The severity of colon cancer lies with its ability to remain undetected for years while causing little to no symptoms until the later, more extensive stages of the disease. Although colon cancer can be treated, as with any potentially-fatal disease, prevention or early detection is the best course of action. Colon and rectal cancer are the third most common cancers in the United States and are responsible for approximately 60,000 deaths annually. Despite this confounding figure, colon cancer is potentially curable if diagnosed in the early stages.
A healthy and active lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing colon cancer. Along with healthy lifestyle choices, following your colorectal surgeon’s recommendations concerning regular colon screenings can help reduce your risk further.
Examine Dietary Habits – A healthy colon requires adequate quantities of fiber to aid digestion. Because most western diets are poor in good quality fiber, it may be necessary to alter your diet to ensure you get adequate daily fiber. Along with a high fiber intake, it is suggested to limit the amount of fat and cholesterol consumed. Consuming excessive amounts of fat or cholesterol can increase your risk of colon cancer.
Remain a Healthy Weight – Carrying excess body weight has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer as well. Check your body weight by calculating your body mass index to make sure your weight category falls within the healthy zone. If you find yourself to be overweight, speak with your doctor about appropriate methods of healthy weight loss.
Maintain an Active Lifestyle – Regular exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. It is suggested that most people participate in physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. Some activities may include walking, running, swimming or cycling. Combining an active lifestyle with healthy dietary habits can greatly reduce your risk of developing colon cancer.
Quit Unhealthy Habits – Harmful habits such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking cigarettes or participating in recreational drug use can negatively affect your health and increase your risk of colon cancer. Giving up these behaviors is difficult but there are many resources available to you to help make lifestyle changes like these easier. Consult your doctor for information about medications and support programs that might help.
These are only few prevention tips for colon cancer to be taken into consideration. It is important to undergo regular colon screenings as early detection provides the best chance of successful treatment. Appropriate screening for colon cancer begins by determining your individual level of risk based on your family and personal medical history. Screening options for colon cancer include:
- Home FOBT (fecal occult blood test) alone every year
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy alone every 5 years
- Home FBOT every combined with flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- DCBE (Double contrast barium enema) every 5 years
- Colonoscopy alone every 10 years
Your screening options will vary depending on what your colorectal surgeon sees fit based on your individual level of risk.