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Published on March 21, 2016

Colorectal Cancer—Can You Prevent It?

March 21, 2016

polypWhile the answer is a resounding YES, more than 50,000 people will die from colorectal cancer this year. How can this be? According to the National Colon Cancer Alliance the answer can be found in one word: “embarrassment.” If men and women would muster their courage, consult their doctors, and get screened, tens of thousands of lives could be saved. So what are your chances of having to deal with colorectal cancer, and how can you avoid it? 

First, What Is It?

Colorectal cancer develops gradually from benign polyps which are grape-like growths on the lining of the colon and rectum. The colon and rectum are both part of your digestive tract—the place where food is processed to create energy and rid your body of waste. 

Should You Be Checked?

Simple screening methods can detect and remove polyps before they become cancerous. In addition, if polyps are detected soon enough after they have become cancerous, there’s a 90 percent chance you will be cured. 

How Can You Avoid Getting It?

Although experts don’t know exactly what causes colorectal cancer, studies suggest the following things you can do to minimize your risk:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, and high-fiber foods. Avoid high-fat foods.
  • Take a daily multivitamin containing folic acid or folate.
  • Get more calcium through low-fat dairy products or, if necessary, from a calcium supplement.
  • Get plenty of exercise even if it’s small amounts on a regular basis.
  • Do your best to maintain a healthy weight. Talk with your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Stop smoking. Recent studies show that smokers are at least 30 percent more likely to die of colorectal cancer.

There are a few risk factors that cannot be controlled, and you may want to be aware of them so you can consult with your doctor. These include

  • a family history of colorectal cancer
  • a personal history of colorectal cancer
  • a personal history of some, but not all, kinds of polyps
  • a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • aging

Common Symptoms

The National Cancer Institute says that the following are common signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, but that they may be caused by other conditions as well, so it is important for you to check with your doctor if you’re concerned.

  • a change in bowel habits
  • diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • blood in the stool
  • general abdominal discomfort
  • weight loss with no known reason
  • constant tiredness
  • vomiting

Learn more about a colonoscopy screening

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