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Posted: March 15, 2018 10:53 a.m.
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Combat colon cancer- early screening, lifestyle changes part 2

People at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer should begin screening at a younger age, and may need to be tested more frequently. Consult your Primary Care Provider if you are at risk or 50 years old or older and have not started screening. According to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, you can reduce your risks of developing colorectal cancer by following these 10 steps:

1. Go to a doctor if you have any colon cancer symptoms.

Usually, colon cancer doesn't have any symptoms. However, in the later stages, symptoms may include thin stools, cramping, unexplained weight loss, and bloody stools.

2. If you're 50 or older, schedule a colon cancer screening.

 Research indicates that by age 50, one in four people has polyps (colon cancer precursors). Getting screened is an excellent colon cancer prevention method.

3. Eat a balanced diet.

Diets high in fat and cholesterol (especially from animal sources) have been linked to increased colon cancer risk. High-fiber diets, however, have shown a protective effect.

4. Maintain a healthy weight.

All other things equal, obese men seem to be more at risk for colon cancer than obese women. Also, certain body types seem to influence risk more than others.

Studies indicate that extra fat in the waist (an apple shape) increases colon cancer risk more than extra fat in the thighs or hips (a pear shape).

5. Maintain an active lifestyle.

Research indicates that exercising can reduce colon cancer risk by as much as 40 percent.

Exercise also tends to reduce the incidence of other risk factors for colon cancer, like obesity and diabetes. 

6. Consider genetic counseling. 

People who carry genetic mutations linked to hereditary colon cancer are the most likely to develop the disease. If someone in your family has had multiple polyps, or if you're of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, you should seriously consider adding genetic counseling to your colon cancer prevention plan. 

7. Learn your family medical history.

When discussing colon cancer prevention with your doctor, remember to mention if family members have had polyps or colon cancer. Other cancers (such as stomach, liver, and bone) may also be relevant. 

8. Talk to a doctor about your personal medical history.

As you may have guessed, discussing your own medical history is extremely important when it comes to colon cancer prevention. Sometimes we feel like doctors aren't interested in what we have to say, so we try to answer their questions as quickly and succinctly as possible. But it's alright and advisable  to talk about your health history. Of particular concern are polyps, certain cancers, and chronic inflammation of the bowel, all of which can increase the risk of developing colon cancer. 

9. Don't smoke.

Smoking increases your risk for two main reasons. First, inhaled or swallowed tobacco smoke transports carcinogens to the colon. Second, tobacco use appears to increase polyp size. 

10. Reduce radiation exposure.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, colon cancer has been caused by doses of about 1,000 millisieverts. 

The good news is that the Center for Disease Control reports colon cancer survival has increased substantially at all stages of disease with scientific advancements since the 1980s. However, early detection still gives you the best odds of survival with a 90 percent chance of five-year survival after localized detection of cancer, 70 percent after regional spread of cancer, and 10 percent survival after distant metastasis.  With appropriate diet and lifestyle changes, timely screening, and early intervention, you can greatly reduce your risk of death from colon cancer.

For more information, contact your Primary Care Provider or Winn Army Public Health Nursing at 912 435-5071.

 


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