Sandy Tschosik, RN
Community Health Services Coordinator
St. Alexius Medical Center
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women and the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 143,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013.
Risk factors that may increase your chance of developing colorectal cancer include:
- Being over 50 years of age
- Personal history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- Inherited syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC or Lynch syndrome)
- A diet low in fiber and high in fat, red meat and processed meats
- Consuming more than three alcoholic beverages per day
- Type 2 diabetes
Diet and lifestyle choices are important risk factors that you can control. To improve your overall health and reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, consider the following:
- Physical activity – Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity at least five times a week. If you are not currently active, check with your physician to see how much physical activity is right for you.
- Diet – Increase your fiber intake. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day. Reduce consumption of red meat and processed meat. Avoid foods high in calories, cholesterol and saturated and trans-fats. Control portion size.
- Weight loss – Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Research shows that too much fat around the midsection increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Tobacco – Quit!
- Alcohol – In moderation, if at all. No more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
- Get Screened – Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most important things you can do to find precancerous polyps. Colorectal cancer screening is recommended for men and women age 50 to 75 using fecal occult blood testing (checks stool for blood), sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Talk to your healthcare provider to see what screening test is right for you. If you are older than 75 years of age, ask your physician if you should be screened.
Some common symptoms of colorectal cancer include: a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation; frequent gas pains, cramps or bloating; blood in the stools or stools that are narrower than usual; the feeling your bowel doesn’t empty completely; unexplained weight loss; or feeling tired or weak. Most often these symptoms are not due to cancer, but anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a physician to have them checked. If you are concerned about colorectal cancer, trust your gut, and talk to your healthcare provider. Colorectal cancer screenings save lives.