As the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America, colorectal cancer claims the lives of more than 50,000 Americans each year. With March being National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to know the warning signs of colon cancer, risk factors associated with colon cancer, and what you can do to lower your risk.
Warning signs of colon cancer
Knowing the classic signs and symptoms associated with colon cancer can help you catch the cancer before it’s too late. A few common warning signs that point to colon cancer include:
- Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea or stool consistency changes, that last more than four weeks
- Blood in the stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
- Frequent abdominal discomfort, including cramps, pain, or gas
- A feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowel completely
- Fatigue or weakness
Risk factors of colon cancer
There are certain factors that can increase your risk for developing colon cancer, such as if you…
- are over the age of 50
- are African American
- have a personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps (small lump of cells collected on the colon lining)
- have inflammatory intestinal conditions
- have inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk (familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome)
- have a family history of colon cancer
- consume a low-fiber, high-fat diet
- live a sedentary lifestyle
- have diabetes
- are obese
- drink alcohol
- have had previous radiation therapy for cancer
What you can do to lower your risk for colon cancer
Though the statistics of colon cancer can be scary, a large majority of cases are preventable. There are a few changes you can start making today to lower your risk for colon cancer. These include:
Eating a healthy diet
Be sure you are consuming a healthy, balanced diet consisting of non-starchy vegetables, fruits and whole grains, as diets associated with these foods have been connected with a lowered risk of colon cancer. In addition, lower your intake of red meat and processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meats, which have been linked to colon cancer.
Regular exercise can lower your risk for colon cancer, as inactivity can contribute to the development of colon cancer. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Those who are obese or very overweight are at an increased risk of colon cancer. Making healthy choices at mealtime and incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine can help.
In addition to the other health problems tobacco products can cause, smoking can also contribute to the development of colon cancer. Heavy smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop and die from colon cancer.
Colon cancer has been associated with heavy drinking. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than two alcoholic beverages per day for men and one alcoholic beverage per day for women.
Getting screened for colon cancer
It may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to lower your risk of developing colon cancer is to make sure you are scheduling regular colon cancer screenings. Most people begin their screenings at the age of 50, but those who have an increased risk, should talk with their doctor about getting screened sooner.
If you are experiencing warning signs of colon cancer, call the oncologists at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center today at (888) 774-0309 to schedule your first consultation.