Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017
As human beings, we like to celebrate things like birthdays, anniversaries, important achievements and major milestones. Now is a great time to add another item on your celebration list – your colon.
We may not think about our colons much but they play an important role in good health. The colon helps absorb water and nutrients while helping your body get rid of waste and toxins.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and a great time to highlight and celebrate your colon and the lifesaving benefits of regular screenings and early detection.
“We encourage everyone, especially those age 50 and over, to talk to their primary care physician about screening for colon cancer,” Harbin Clinic Gastroenterologist Dr. H. Whitney Jennings says. “It’s vital to get screened, because the earlier we can catch the cancer, the better chance you have of beating it. Additionally, colon cancer is preventable, by identifying and removing precancerous polyps that are detected with a screening colonoscopy.”
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the United States.
There is no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer, but there are steps everyone can take to help lower their risk of getting it. Colorectal cancer is one of the easiest cancers to detect and is often treatable if discovered in its early stages.
Getting screened is the best way to celebrate your colon and the best method for early detection. There are several screening methods for detecting colorectal cancer, including having a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy is a routine procedure in which a thin, flexible tube – called a colonoscope – is used for viewing the entire length and inner lining of the large intestine, which consists of the colon and rectum.
This method of screening detects colon polyps, or abnormal growths of tissue, which can turn cancerous over time. The vast majority of polyps can be removed during a routine colonoscopy, therefore preventing the development of colon cancer. Colonoscopies also help identify ulcers, tumors, areas of bleeding or inflammation and other intestinal problems.
More than 90 percent of colorectal cancers occur in people over the age of 50, so regular screenings are vital for this age group. If you are younger than 50, screenings may be appropriate if:
- You have a family history of colon cancer or polyps
- You have been previously diagnosed with the disease
- You have experienced inflammatory bowel disease or polyps
- Development of rectal bleeding, certain anemias or a sudden change in bowel patterns
Family history and age are two major factors in determining your risk of developing colon cancer. But there are also some simple steps everyone can do to try to prevent it. These steps include:
- Watch your weight— especially weight gain around your midsection
- Make sure to get regular exercise
- Limit the amount of red meats and processed meats in your diet
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Avoid drinking alcohol in excess
- Quit smoking
The rate of colon cancer screenings has risen over the past decades, which has helped lead to earlier rates of detection. Even though screenings are on the rise, the American Cancer Society reports as much as 40 percent of the population age 50 and over haven’t been screened. So don’t be part of the crew that misses the party.
Be sure to ask your primary care physician about your risk factors and when you should be screened, and take the time to help celebrate your colon.