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House Call: Colorectal Cancer

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 10:39 AM EST
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Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.

1). What do we need to know about Colorectal Cancer as March is Colorectal Cancer Month?

Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short.

Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they

can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment works best.

2). What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Colorectal Cancer?

Overall, the most effective way one can reduce the risk for colorectal cancer is to be screened for colorectal cancer routinely, beginning at age 50.

Almost all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Such polyps can be present in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. They may not cause any symptoms, especially early on. Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.

Diet

Research is underway to find out if changes to your diet can reduce your colorectal cancer risk. Medical experts often recommend a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease and diabetes. This diet also may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Aspirin

Researchers are looking at the role of some medicines and supplements in preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that taking low-dose aspirin could help prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in some adults, depending on age and risk factors.

Healthy Choices

Some studies suggest that people may reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco.

The good news is that the rate of people being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer each year has dropped overall since the mid-1980s, mainly because more people are getting screened and changing their lifestyle-related risk factors.

3). Are there any Symptoms with Colorectal Cancer?

Stomach pain, aches, or cramps may be symptoms of colorectal cancer. If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.

Colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer do not always cause symptoms, especially at first. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why being screened regularly for colorectal cancer is so important.

If you have symptoms, they may include—

· Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).

· Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.

· Losing weight and you do not know why. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They may be caused by something other than cancer. The only way to know what is causing them is to see your doctor.

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