March is National Colorectal Awareness Month. In honor of this, we are going to explore what colorectal cancer is and how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones by answering the following questions:
- What is colorectal cancer?
- What are the symptoms?
- What are the risk factors?
- What can I do to prevent it?
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is exactly what it sounds like, cancer of the colon and/or rectum. It usually starts out as a benign polyp that, over time, turns malignant. According to the National Cancer Institute, 143,460 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the United States in 2012 and 51,690 people will die from it.
What Are The Symptoms?
In its early stages, colorectal cancer usually does not produce any symptoms. However, here are some signs to look for:
- Blood in your stool or bleeding from the rectum
- Narrow stools
- Constipation, diarrhea or feeling like your bowel does not empty completely
- Any other changes in bowel habits
- Bloating, cramps or a general feeling of fullness in your abdomen
- Unintentional weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Nausea or vomiting
Remember, these symptoms can be caused by other health issues, so don’t panic. If you are having any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately so he/she can give you the appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
What Are The Risk Factors?
Men and women have an equal risk.
- People over the age of 50. About 90% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer fall into this category. However, this statistic is dropping, and more people under the age of 50 are being diagnosed. This disease does not discriminate.
- People who are overweight and especially those that carry that weight around their middle
- People who eat a lot of processed meat or red meat
- People who eat a low-fiber, high-fat diet
- People who drink an excessive amount of alcohol
- People who smoke
- People who are not physically active on a regular basis
Family History/Medical Conditions:
- People with a personal or family history of non-cancerous polyps, colorectal cancer, other types of cancer, ulcerative colitis, Chrohn’s disease or other inflammatory bowel diseases
- People who have diabetes
- People with inherited genetic disorders such as Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
- People who are of Eastern European or African American descent
What Can I Do To Prevent It?
Prevention and early detection are key.
- Do not smoke
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grains
- Limit red meat, processed meat and alcohol
Screenings reduce your risk and can save your life. According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, over 80% of colorectal cancer cases can be prevented by recommended screenings. If detected early, colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer.
People with an average risk should have annual screenings starting at age 50. Those who are at greater risk should start the screening process earlier. Talk to your doctor about when you should start. Depending on your risk, your screening could include:
- Blood tests
- Rectal Exam
- Barium Enema
- Fecal Occult Blood Testing
- Stool DNA testing
Be sure you and your loved ones are being screened. Be aware. Though it’s not an easy subject to discuss, talk about it with your family members and friends. Use this month to open up the lines of communication about this preventable and treatable disease. It could save a life!
We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Houston, please call us at 832 379-4700 or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff supervising more than 100 quality-trained home care personnel covering the Houston, Texas area.
- New, Free Continuing Education for Nurses: Preventing Colorectal Cancer (prweb.com)
- Colorectal Cancer: Myths And Misconceptions (tampa.cbslocal.com)
- Never Tested for Colon Cancer? What’s Your Excuse? (washington.cbslocal.com)