What You Should Know About Colorectal Cancer

Cancers that begin in the colon or rectum are the fourth most common cancers in the U.S. In 2015, more that 90,000 Americans were diagnosed with colon cancer. Nearly 50,000 Americans were diagnosed with rectal cancer. Nearly 50,000 people died of in 2015. (American Cancer Society)

But there is good news about the disease

The death rate has been dropping for 20 years because more people are getting screened. During colonoscopy, polyps can be found and removed before they turn into cancer. Everyone should start getting screened for colorectal cancer by age 50. For some people screening should begin sooner.

Early screening

If you have any of the following risks, you should talk to your health care provider about starting screening earlier.

  • A personal or family history of polyps in the colon and rectum.
  • A family history of colorectal cancer. It’s a general rule that screening should begin 10 years prior to the age when your youngest relative was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
  • A history of family genetic cancer syndromes.
  • You have inflammatory bowel disease.
  • If you’re African American, consider starting colorectal cancer screening at age 45.

See the full screening recommendations.

Here’s more good news: New surgical techniques, drugs for chemotherapy, radiation and combined treatments improve outcomes for people diagnosed with colorectal cancer. A physician can offer guidance on an individual’s best options.

7 lifestyle choices you can make to help prevent colorectal cancer

Whether you’re 20 or 50, it’s never too late to start taking these steps to prevent colorectal cancer — and other cancers, too.

  1. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
  2. Keep you BMI below 30. (Check your BMI) Being overweight or obese has been associated with colorectal cancer.
  3. Get moving for at least 30 minutes every day and limit sedentary habits like watching TV. Activity keeps hormone levels healthy, strengthens the immune system and lets you eat more nutrient-rich food without gaining weight.
  4. Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, such as beans, and a wide variety of them.
  5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and processed meats (luncheon meat, sausage).
  6. Decrease the amount of meat cooked at very high temperatures (meats that are fried, boiled, or grilled).
  7. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women. Heavy alcohol intake is associated with colorectal cancer risk.

If you have any questions about colorectal cancer or your risks, visit with your health care professional.

Meet the Author

Catherine A. Schulz, NP is a Nurse Practitioner at Aurora Medical Group Surgical Specialists in Milwaukee, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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