March is colorectal cancer awareness month, and while those 50 and over are most at risk for the disease, people of every age need to know the symptoms. Take action today by scheduling a colonoscopy if you are over 50, or by forwarding this email to someone you love who is in the at-risk age group. Let's keep our health at the top of our to-do lists all year long!
Colorectal Screening Saves Lives
Dr. Shiraz Farooq, Carolina Surgical Associates
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. But by having screenings that find and remove precancerous polyps that can develop into cancer, colorectal cancer can be stopped before it ever starts.
"Having a colonoscopy or other colon screening test is the single most important step you can take to reduce your risk of colon cancer," says Dr. Shiraz Farooq, Colorectal Surgeon with Carolina Surgical Associates. "These screening tests can detect colorectal cancer early when it is most curable."
Screening for Colon Cancer
The most at-risk population are adults over the age of 50. According to the CDC, if everyone age 50 years old and older were screened regularly, as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.
Screening for colorectal cancer most often means a colonoscopy, which uses a small camera to examine the entire length of the colon. If polyps or other abnormal areas are present, a biopsy can be performed during the colonoscopy.
If you are at average risk for colorectal cancer, start having regular screening at age 50. If you have a family history of cancer or have a medical condition that affects your colon, you may need to begin colonoscopy screening earlier and be tested more often. To schedule a colonoscopy, call a Colorectal Surgeon or gastroenterologist. It's a good idea to check with your insurance company to see if you need a physician's referral. Find a doctor >>
Other Prevention Methods
While screening is the most important way to prevent colorectal cancer, there are lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk for polyps and colorectal cancer. In addition to general healthy behaviors like getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, you should:
- Eat a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains.
- Consume calcium-rich foods like low-fat or skim milk.
- Limit red meat consumption and avoid processed meats.
- Don't drink alcohol excessively.
Symptoms of Colon or Rectal Cancer
Early colon cancer often has no symptoms, but if present, symptoms can include rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fatigue or a change in bowel habits. If you notice the following symptoms, let you doctor know and ask to schedule a colonoscopy.
Dr. Shiraz Farooq is a fellowship-trained Colorectal Surgeon with Carolina Surgical Associates. Learn more about preventing colorectal cancer by listening to Dr. Farooq's podcast:
Bulk Up on Fiber to Improve Colon Health
When it comes to colon health, fiber is our friend! It's not only good for your colon, but it can lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and can even help you lose weight. Here are some easy ways to get more fiber in your diet:
- Start your day with a cereal that has 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, then add some fruit.
- Switch to whole grains, including brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat breads with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.
- Sneak fresh or frozen vegetables and beans into sauces and soups.
- Eat fruit at every meal.
When adding fiber to your diet, do so gradually and be sure to drink plenty of water. Women should aim for 20-25 grams of fiber per day, and men should get 30-40 grams daily. Want to learn more? Schedule a nutritional counseling session
with one of our registered dietitans.