The National Cancer Institute says colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Even though we do not know the exact cause of all colorectal cancer, it is possible to prevent many colorectal cancers. When caught early, colon cancer has a 90 percent survival rate.
One of the most powerful weapons in preventing colorectal cancer is regular screening or testing. Regular screening can, in many cases, prevent colorectal cancer altogether. This is because polyps, or growths, can be detected and removed before they turn into cancer. Screening can also result in finding colorectal cancer early, when it is highly curable.
People who have no identified risk factors other than age should begin regular screenings at 50. Those who have a family history or other risk factors for colorectal cancer or polyps need to talk with their doctor about starting screenings at a younger age and more frequent intervals.
People can lower their risk of developing colorectal cancer by managing the risk factors that they can control, such as diet, physical activity, avoiding tobacco, and knowing your family’s cancer history. It is important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods, and to limit intake of high-fat foods and the amount of red meat and alcohol intake. A cancer-preventative diet includes consuming at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Physical activity is another area people can control. The American Cancer Society recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week. If you participate in moderate or vigorous activity for 45 minutes on five or more days a week, you can lower your risk for colorectal cancer even more. If you are overweight, ask your doctor about a weight loss plan that will work for you.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Schedule your colonoscopy now.
Community cancer education coordinator
Elkhart General Hospital