March Is Colorectal Cancer Prevention Month

“Preventable. Treatable. Beatable!”

Colorectal cancer affects both men and women in almost equal numbers.

It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

There are several screening methods available, making the disease highly preventable.

This part of the body is not generally talked about in polite conversation.  In fact, it is almost taboo.  Much embarrassment accompanies discussions such as color of one’s bowel movements, frequency of bowel movements, associated pain, bleeding, consistency, or other very personal questions.

Yet we must talk about this personal space of our body, risk factors, testing and normal verses abnormal signs of disease development.  Why? Because this is a disease that can be prevented…or diagnosed in a treatable stage.

This year over 142,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and an estimated 50,830 will die of the disease.  Don’t be one of the statistics because you are shy or worried about having the dreaded colonoscopy.  It is a small inconvenience, so put on your big girl panties –or perhaps get ready to take off those panties in order to protect yourself.

So….what do you need to know?  For individuals at average risk, screening should begin at age 50.  If older than 75, ask your health care provider if you need to continue getting screened.

Don’t wait for something to go wrong or change from your normal. Remember, it is always best to get screened BEFORE you have any symptoms. Most cancers take years to develop and that is our window of opportunity for early detection and treatment.

At age 50, a colonoscopy should be scheduled.  No, it’s not fun, but neither is cancer.  Actually, getting prepared for the test is the difficult part.  Generally, several days prior to the procedure all aspirin and anti-inflammatory medications must be discontinued.  Two days prior, a low residue diet is ordered.  The day before the test, only have clear liquids are allowed and a large quantity of a medicated liquid must be ingested that causes a “bowel cleansing.”  Interestingly enough, this beverage is called, “Go Lightly.”  In actuality, it is “Go Heavily.”

The goal is to pass clear liquid instead of brown stool or liquid.  This means the bowel is clean and can be well visualized.  It is essential that the bowel is cleansed of all waste in order for the gastroenterologist to be able to visualize the lining of the colon.

Before the procedure you will be given an anesthetic and basically sleep through the test. The purpose of the test is to inspect the entire colon through a long flexible tube (the colonoscope) that is inserted into the rectum. This tiny tube has a video camera at the tip that allows the doctor to detect polyps or any abnormalities or cancerous changes.  Polyps can usually be removed, or at least sampled to determine if any of the cells are abnormal.

See the Mayo Clinic picture below and go to their website for complete details about the procedure, prep, procedure and results.

The good news is that this test is usually only necessary every TEN years.  If polyps are discovered, or other risk factors or abnormalities are present, more frequent testing may be required.  As with most cancers, lifestyle can increase or decrease one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.

What things increase the risk?
• Being over the age of  50
• Smoking
• Being  overweight or obese, especially when fat is present around the waist
• Being inactive
• Drinking alcohol in excess
• High intake of red meat (such as beef, pork or lamb) or processed meat (such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs or cold cuts)
• A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
• A personal histories of inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
• A family histories of inherited colorectal cancer or inherited colorectal problems.

How can you reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer?

• Be physically active for at least 30 minutes, at least five days a week.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
• If you drink alcohol, have no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman or two drinks a day if you’re a man.
• Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains to help you get and stay healthy.
• Eat less red meat and cut out processed meat.

Fill out the form on the site: to download the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Guide to Prevent Cancer®!

Remember…..your daily choices are the biggest influence on your health.  Choose wisely and be an active participant in your own healthcare.



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