If you’re like most people, you probably think of cancer as something that happens to other people. But the fact is, cancer can strike anyone, at any age. And while there are many different types of cancer, one of the most common is colorectal cancer.
Also known as colon cancer, colorectal cancer affects the large intestine (colon) and the rectum (the final section of the bowel). According to the American Cancer Society, it’s the third most common type of cancer in both men and women. But here’s the good news: if it’s caught early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. In fact, according to the ACS, nearly 90% of cases can be successfully treated when detected early.
So what does this mean for you? It means that paying attention to your body and knowing what’s normal for you is crucial. If you experience any symptoms that concern you, don’t hesitate to see a doctor. And remember, early detection is key. The sooner colorectal cancer is diagnosed, the better your chances are for successful treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
The symptoms of colorectal cancer depend on the location of the tumour. If the tumour is in the colon, you may experience a change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, or fatigue. If the tumour is in the rectum, you may experience rectal bleeding or anal pain. However, it’s important to remember that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so if you’re experiencing any of them, it’s important to see a doctor for a diagnosis.
Prevention of Colorectal Cancer
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened for the disease starting at age 50. There are several screening tests available, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, stool tests, and CT colonography. Talk to your doctor about which test is right for you. You may also lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer through lifestyle changes, you can make to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Here are some other things you can do to reduce your risk:
Eat less fat and red meat: A diet high in fat and red meat has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. To help reduce your risk, eat less red meat and choose leaner cuts when you do eat it. Cut back on processed meats like ham, bacon, sausages and salami as well.
Eat more vegetables, fruits and fibre: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fibre has been shown to help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Try to include a source of fibre at every meal. Good sources of fibre include whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, legumes and beans.
Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity has been linked with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Some examples of moderate-intensity activities include walking briskly, biking on level ground and doing yard work like raking or pushing a lawn mower.
Cut down on alcohol, especially distilled spirits: Drinking alcohol has been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. To help reduce your risk, limit yourself to no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man or one drink a day if you’re a woman. If you do drink, choose lower alcohol alternatives like beer and wine over distilled spirits like vodka or whisky.
Control your diabetes: People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. You can help control your diabetes by eating healthy foods, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. If you have diabetes, it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels under control through lifestyle changes and/or medication.
Consider taking a calcium supplement: Taking a daily supplement containing 1,200 mg of calcium may help protect against colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor about whether this is right for you.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer screening is the best way to protect yourself from the disease. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. They can also find colorectal cancer early when it’s most likely to be treated successfully. Talk to your doctor about which screening test is right for you and when you should start getting screened.