The bottom line on colon cancer…
Colon cancer kills 50,000 Americans per year – that’s 1 out of every 23 people. Which is stupid because colon cancer is very curable when detected early. Regular routine screenings reduce your risk of late-stage diagnosis.
You know the old saying; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It couldn’t be truer than when fighting colon cancer.
Follow these guidelines and lower your risk of dying from this disease.
1. When you turn 45, start screening for colon cancer
Your risk of colorectal cancer increases as you age. Most new cases are diagnosed in people older than 50. Average age at the time of diagnosis for men is 68 and for women is 72.
But colon cancer is on the rise among younger people ages 20 – 39. The American Cancer Society now recommends you start screening at age 45.
Especially if you have these risk factors:
- a family history of colon cancer,
- you’re obese (especially in the gut area),
- you’re African American,
- or you have a history of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
If you’re risk is average, you can probably wait until you turn 50 for your first screening.
2. Review the screening options with your healthcare provider.
Colonoscopy – the gold standard for screenings
A Colonoscopy is a medical procedure. Patients get a sedative before the screening. Then a doctor snakes a long tube with a camera through your rectum and colon searching for polyps on the colon walls. Polyps are little growths on the colon lining, which may eventually become cancerous tumors.
The test can be the cure. Polyps or small tumors can often be removed during the colonoscopy. Samples are then sent to a lab and tested for cancer. If positive, your doctor will review treatment options with you.
Is a colonoscopy uncomfortable? Yes. But it beats the discomfort of chemo therapy.
Computed tomography (CT) colonography or virtual colonoscopy uses special x-ray equipment to examine the large intestine for cancer and growths called polyps. During the exam, a small tube is inserted a short distance into the rectum to allow for inflation with gas while CT images of the colon and the rectum are taken.
Double Contrast Barium Enema
A double contrast barium enema uses a silver-white compound called barium. The barium is inserted into the colon and then drained out, leaving a thin layer of barium on the colon wall. The colon is then filled with air expanding it to give a detailed view of any polyps or abnormalities.
The double contrast barium enema is not as comprehensive as the colonoscopy. But it’s less invasive and often more affordable and is useful in diagnosing colorectal issues.
High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT)
Both polyps and colorectal cancers can bleed, and FOBT checks for tiny amounts of blood in feces (stool) that cannot be seen visually. (Blood in stool may also indicate the presence of conditions that are not cancer, such as hemorrhoids
Stool DNA test (FIT-DNA)
Cologuard®, detects tiny amounts of blood in stool and nine DNA biomarkers in three genes found in colorectal cancer. You use a kit and collect a stool sample for the test. Then you mail the sample to a laboratory for testing. It’s analyzed by a computer program giving a positive or negative finding. If you have a positive finding you’re advised to get a colonoscopy.
3. Beware these danger signs. If you experience any of these, schedule a doctor's appointment and screening asap.
- Blood in stool
- Feeling weak, exhausted, or dizzy (due to possible blood loss)
- Frequently feeling bloated, frequent gas
- Persistent abdominal cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Painful bowel movements
- Black tarry stool
- Any changes in your normal bm routine.
- Going poop less than 3x per week or more than 3x per day.
We all tend to ignore what isn’t impacting us in the moment. That’s why 70-90% of colon cancers are diagnosed after these symptoms appear. By that time, the cancer has usually already spread beyond the colon.
4. Change your lifestyle habits to reduce your risk of colon cancer
- Eat a diet high in fiber and leafy green vegetables
- Reduce the amount of processed meats and foods you eat
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid weight gain (especially in the gut area)
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Stop smoking
- Eating these gut healthy foods might also help lower risk: rye bread, fermented foods (like sauerkraut), gouda cheese, and taking calcium
The "bottom" line? No ifs, ands, or butts about it.
Free Options Consultation
Wondering which assisted living community is the best match for you or a loved one? You’re not alone. That’s why I offer a Free 1-hour consultation.
I was experiencing anxiety for my mom and what her future plans would be. I knew that the time was coming.
A friend from work recommended Jennifer and said I would be in good hands. I reached out to Jennifer and after talking with her felt so confident that this was the person I needed to help my mom make this transition.
Without Jennifer, I don't know how it would have worked.
This is a job that can not be done in a moment's time nor done by yourself.
With Jennifer's help, we were able to transition my mom to a wonderful home and it is there that she feels safe and welcomed.
Thank you, Jennifer, for helping to coordinate this life changing time for us all!