Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States, responsible for 104,610 new cases this year. It can be treatable if you know what to look for and detect it early. And even though it’s not fully preventable, there are steps you can take to lower your risk.
At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, we aim to keep you as healthy as possible while treating many types of cancer along the way. Our skilled team of oncologists and hematologists specialize in the most up-and-coming cancer treatments, to help you get your life back on track.
Risk factors for colon cancer
Cancer is a terrible disease that can attack at any age. While maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps to decrease your risk, you can’t change things like your family history, genetics, and age. Risk factors you can change include:
- Low-fiber, high-fat diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Drinking alcohol
The above risks could eventually lead to gene mutations, setting you up for a tumor in your intestine. Many times, tumors start from a polyp in the lining of your colon. At some point, the cells in the polyp start to divide uncontrollably, becoming cancer cells.
These polyps can be found during routine colonoscopy screenings, and removed before they turn into colon cancer. That’s why the CDC recommends regular screenings for men and women from age 50 to age 75.
Symptoms to look out for
In the early stages of colon cancer, you might not have any symptoms. This definitely makes it hard for anyone to figure out that something’s wrong. However, as the cancer progresses, symptoms become more apparent. Symptoms in the earlier stages of colon cancer include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Bloody stools
You may also notice a change in your bowel movements, including narrow stools or different colored stools than normal. As the disease progresses, your symptoms become more apparent. Late stage symptoms include:
- Weight loss
Changes in your stool at this stage last longer than a few weeks, and you might also feel as though your bowels don’t empty the whole way. Getting help as soon as you notice problems helps to increase the likelihood that treatment is successful.
5 tips to reduce your risk
Cancer definitely isn’t something that can be entirely prevented. However, you can make lifestyle changes that greatly decrease your chances of getting certain cancers, including colon cancer. The following are five steps you can take to reduce your risk:
1. Stop smoking
Smoking negatively impacts your health because of the toxins within the smoke. It can weaken your immune system, making it more difficult to ward off cancer cells. If you smoke, you’re more likely to develop colon cancer than someone who doesn’t. Quitting decreases your risk. If you need help quitting, reach out to our team, and we can help.
2. Get regular exercise
Along with its other added benefits of staying lean and fit, just 30 minutes a day of exercise can decrease your chances of developing colon cancer.
3. Eat healthy
According to the American Cancer Society, eating healthy foods like whole grains and vegetables reduces your risk of colon cancer. You should limit red meat intake, like beef and lamb, along with processed meats. A healthy diet paired with exercise is an easy step to take to ward off colon cancer.
4. Limit alcohol
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, alcohol is a carcinogen. Their studies show that overconsumption of alcoholic beverages increases your risk of developing colon cancer. On average, if you're a man you should have no more than two drinks per day; a woman should only have one drink per day.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing colon cancer by 30%. This is due to the increased fat content in your body. A sedentary lifestyle leads to excess pounds, so getting active and modifying your diet will help cut your risk significantly.
One of the most important steps you can take to limit your risk for this disease is to get screened regularly. Our doctors will discuss with you how often you need to be screened, depending on if you’re at an average risk or a higher risk. Screening is the first line of defense, as it allows our team to find early signs of cancer and eliminate the problem.
If you’re interested in learning more about reducing your risk for colon cancer, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-264-1798 to schedule a consultation. You can also reach out to us by using our online booking tool.