Colon cancer is a type of cancer that affects the large intestine, which is the lower part of the digestive system. Colon cancer can be deadly if not detected and treated early, but there are many effective preventive measures that can help reduce your risk of developing this disease. In this article, we will explore some of the most effective preventive measures for colon cancer.
Understand Your Risk Factors
One of the most important preventive measures for colon cancer is to understand your risk factors. Some of the most common risk factors for colon cancer include:
- Age. Colon cancer is more common in people over the age of 50.
- Family history. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may be at increased risk.
- Personal history. If you have a history of colon polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, you may be at increased risk.
- Lifestyle factors. Smoking, heavy alcohol use, a diet high in red meat and processed foods, and a sedentary lifestyle can all increase your risk of colon cancer.
If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk and the appropriate screening schedule for you.
Get Screened Regularly
Screening is one of the most important preventive measures for colon cancer. Screening can help detect colon cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable. The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colon cancer begin screening at age 45.
People at increased risk may need to begin screening earlier and may need to be screened more frequently. There are several types of screening tests for colon cancer, including:
- Colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible tube with a camera and light at the end is used to examine the inside of the colon and rectum. During the procedure, your doctor can remove any polyps or abnormal tissue for further testing.
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT). A FIT is a stool test that checks for the presence of blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colon cancer.
- Stool DNA test. A stool DNA test checks for changes in DNA that may be a sign of colon cancer.
Colonoscopy is the gold standard for colorectal cancer screening. After testing positive with a FIT or Stool DNA Test,, a colonoscopy will still be needed to correctly diagnose colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor about which screening test is right for you.
Maintain a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is another important preventive measure for colon cancer. Some tips for maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle include:
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods are high in fiber and can help keep your digestive system healthy.
- Limit red meat and processed foods. Red meat and processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Try to limit your intake of these foods and choose lean protein sources such as fish, chicken, and beans.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of colon cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of colon cancer. Try to maintain a healthy weight through a combination of diet and exercise.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of colon cancer, as well as many other types of cancer and health problems.
Know the Colon Cancer Symptoms
Knowing the symptoms of colon cancer is another important preventive measure. Some of the most common symptoms of colon cancer include:
- Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. While these symptoms can be caused by many different conditions, they may also be a sign of colon cancer.
Know Your Family History
If you have a family history of colon cancer, it is important to know your family history and talk to your doctor about your risk. If you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) who has had colon cancer, you may be at increased risk. Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screening, or other preventive measures to reduce your risk.
Colon cancer is a serious disease that can be deadly if not detected and treated early. Fortunately, there are many effective preventive measures for colon cancer, including understanding your risk factors, getting screened regularly, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, knowing the symptoms of colon cancer, and knowing your family history.
If you are at increased risk of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk and the appropriate screening schedule for you. With proper care and attention, you can reduce your risk of colon cancer and improve your overall health and well-being.