March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. This is a topic that most people don't want to talk about as some find it a bit embarrassing because of the part of anatomy we are talking about and what is done to find the cancer.
The average age of a person when its first discovered is 65. Its recommended that a person starts screening for colon cancer when they turn the age of 50 unless there is a family history, then you start sooner. When the cancer is discovered, usually in the later stages of like stage 3 or 4, the disease is much harder to treat or may be even incurable.
There are 3 main types of testing to check for colon cancer.
The first one is a digital rectal exam. This is when a doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel for lumps or anything else that seems unusual. In women, the vagina may also be examined. (I know many of you are cringing right now).
The 2nd type of test is Proctoscopy: This is exam of the rectum using a proctoscope, inserted into the rectum. It is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
Another test is Colonoscopy: This is a procedure to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps (small pieces of bulging tissue), abnormal areas, or cancer. The colonoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
The difference between a proctoscope and a colonoscopy is that a proctoscope is an office procedure that doesn't require sedation and you can return to normal activities that day. A colonoscopy requires sedation, 2-3 hours recovery time and then a driver to take you home. The proctoscope only looks at 20-30 percent of your colon where as the colonoscopy examines the entire colon.
If any polyps are removed, they will examined under a microscope for disease.
Are there ways to avoid colon cancer? There are no 100% ways but there are ways to reduce your risk of getting it.
1. Get your screenings regularly. If the polyps are removed early, this can help them turning into cancer and the cancer being discovered at a later stage when it will be harder to treat or cured.
2. Cut down on red meat. It is high in fat content. Instead concentrate on foods that are high in fiber to keep things "moving along."
3. Cut down on the hard stuff. People who drank more than 8 hard liquor drinks per week had a 2.5 times more of a chance to get colon cancer than the non-drinker. But wine is a different story, those who drank wine were 46% less likely to get cancer. Why? One word - antioxidants.
4. Take Vit. D3, the sunshine vitamin. The higher your Vit. D3 level in your body, the less likely you are to get some types of cancer. 10,000 IU daily is a good number to start with. Another bonus - you are less likely to get sick when you are taking Vit. D3.
5. Get moving! Obesity not only increases your risk of colon cancer but other types of cancer. Cut back on your caloric intake and take a brisk 30 minute walk after dinner. Grab your favorite four legged friend to go with you, I'm sure he/she will enjoy the walk as much as you do.
Have a good week!
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