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Colon Cancer Awareness

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer related deaths in the U.S. Colorectal cancer is defined as cancer of the colon or rectum. Regular screenings can help prevent colorectal cancer through diagnosis at an early, curable stage and through removal of precancerous polyps. A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue lining the colon or rectum; some polyps, such as an adenoma polyp, may turn into cancer or may already be cancer. Individuals with a personal history of colon polyps or family history of colon polyps /colon cancer are at an increased risk of developing polyps.

Colorectal cancer screening is safe and effective. Early detection of colorectal cancer leads to easier treatments and higher survival rates. There are several different options for screening, colonoscopy being the most common. Schedule an appointment to talk to your gastroenterologist to make an informed decision about which screening tests are right for you.

Along with regular screenings, healthy lifestyle choices are also good for colorectal cancer prevention.

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days)
  • Increase foods high in fiber (whole grains, fruits, vegetables)
  • Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Increase calcium intake (low-fat milk, shellfish, salmon, & calcium supplements vitamin D)
  • Decrease fats (oils, butter, red meats)
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all

People 50 years old or older, male or female, with no increased risk factors would be considered at average risk for colorectal cancer.  Increased risk factors include:

  • Personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
  • Family history of one or more parents, siblings, or children with colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
  • Family history of multiple cancers, involving the breast, ovary, uterus and other organs
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Inherited syndromes, such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)
  • Lynch Syndrome

Colorectal cancer may begin with no symptoms at all.  The following signs or symptoms might indicate colorectal cancer:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool (bright red, black or very dark)
  • Weight loss without dieting
  • Constant fatigue
  • Unexplained anemia
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Change in the shape of the stool or narrower than normal stools
  • Discomfort during a bowel movement or the urge to move your bowels when there is no need
  • Cramping pain in your lower abdomen
  • Frequent gas pains

If you notice any symptoms of colon cancer, such as blood in your stool or a persistent change in bowel habits, make an appointment with your gastroenterologist to talk about your symptoms.

Compiled from the American Cancer Society’s Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2013.

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