Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer. It mainly affects those ages 50 and older, and nearly 50,000 Americans die each year from this disease. But thanks to improved treatment, early detection and emphasis on prevention, more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors are alive in our country today.
Despite encouraging trends showing an overall decrease in this form of cancer, the number of colon cancer cases for those under the age of 50 has risen. This is the only age group experiencing this increase, which is possibly attributed to lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise and a poor diet.
What exactly is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow in your rectum or colon. The cells come together to form growths called polyps, which can turn into cancer.
Routine screenings can help identify polyps for early removal before they become cancerous. The most common screening for colorectal cancer is called a colonoscopy. This screening allows your doctor to see the inside of your colon and rectum, and also remove any polyps they find for further examination. There are also stool tests, which can be done at home.
Screening tests are recommended for everyone 50 and older, and earlier for those with certain medical histories. People who have had Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and cancer of the ovaries have a higher chance of getting colorectal cancer. All screening tests can help greatly increase your odds of not dying from the disease. However, be sure to talk to your doctor about the right test for you.
How to lower your risk for colon cancer
You have the power to lower your risk for colon cancer by practicing healthy habits! Experts recommend that you:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Be physically active
- Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and limit alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking
Unfortunately, some risk factors colon cancer are genetic and you just can’t change them. They include aging, family history, race and ethnicity.
Additionally, it is important to know that most colorectal cancer symptoms only appear after this disease spreads. These include blood in or dark stools, stomach pain, fatigue or a change in bowel habits. This is why routine screenings are so important!
If you would like to schedule a screening or have any questions about colorectal cancer, our team at Bon Secours is here for you.