March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to a disease that will affect one in every five Americans. While we can't completely erase our chance of developing this cancer, science has taught us just how much our diet and lifestyle can impact our health for both the short and long term.
What is colorectal cancer?
This type of cancer begins in either the large intestine or the rectum, within the glands that line these areas if the body. The first sign of the cancer is usually a polyp in the colon, which is benign or noncancerous at the beginning and slowly becomes malignant. If these polyps are found, they can be removed to prevent the development of cancer.
The good news about this cancer is it can be highly treatable if detected early through a colonoscopy. Symptoms worth reporting to a doctor include changes in bowel habits such as frequent constipation or diarrhea or blood in the stool. If your lower abdomen feels especially tender or if you seem to be losing weight quickly without trying, you should also consult your doctor. If a diagnosis is made, treatment usually includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, depending on the stage of the cancer.
Who is at risk?
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Colon Cancer Alliance, an estimated 50,830 people will die of colorectal cancer of the estimated 142,820 who will be diagnosed in 2013 in the United States. There is no one cause for the disease, however, there are some risk factors to be aware of:
Eating a diet high in fiber and low in fat (with an emphasis on red meat or processed meat products)
A family history of colon or breast cancer
A diagnoses of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
Being age 60 or older
Being of African American or eastern European descent
Being overweight or obese
If you have one or more of these risk factors, it doesn't mean you'll develop colorectal cancer, but it's important to vigilant, like you should be with all aspects of your health.
What can I do?
The most important thing to do is get screened once you turn 50 years old. As previously mentioned, your doctor will check for polyps by performing a colonoscopy and remove any if needed. If your doctor doesn't determine you to be at high risk, you only need the test every 10 years. Blood tests and further examination of the stool may also be performed. Paying attention to your body and noting any of the changes mentioned above is key. Here are some other ways to lower your risk, according to the ACS:
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
Eat plenty of fiber, fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet
Quit smoking and limit the amounts of alcohol you consume
Cut back on the amount of red meat and processed meats in your diet
Protecting your health is a lifelong commitment, so take the necessary steps to lower your risk for colorectal cancer starting today. Talk with your doctor to discuss your personal needs.
For more health news and all your supplement needs, check back with eVitamins and stay well!
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