Getting screened for colon cancer is one of the easiest — and most effective — steps you can take to protect your health. By looking for cancer before you notice any signs or symptoms, colon screenings can allow life-saving treatment to start earlier.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, an effort by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to increase public knowledge about this often-preventable disease. On March 2, the alliance sponsors Dress in Blue Day to encourage people to get screened.
Along with getting screened regularly, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
Protecting Your Colon Health
The American Cancer Society recommends adopting a healthy diet and exercise program to help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Diets that include ample fruits, vegetables and whole grains are associated with a lower risk of colon cancer. In addition, experts recommend reducing processed and red meats, which are linked to higher risk.
Sedentary individuals have a higher risk for colon cancer. By increasing physical activity, you can further reduce your risk. In addition, experts recommend that individuals who are overweight or obese get their weight into a healthy range with appropriate diet and exercise; being overweight increases the chances of developing the disease.
Smokers — who also have increased risk — are encouraged to quit, and non-smokers should not start. In addition, heavy drinking is linked to colon cancer; the American Cancer Society recommends limiting alcohol to two drinks daily for men and one for women.
Early Detection and Treatment Save Lives
Despite eating a healthy diet, exercising and avoiding smoking and excess alcohol consumption, you may be at increased risk for colon cancer because of factors you cannot change. The American Cancer Society recommends that people age 50 and above get screened for colon cancer, since older adults have higher risk.
If you have a family history of pre-cancerous polyps or colon cancer — or if you’ve had pre-cancerous colon polyps — it’s also important to get screened regularly. Other health conditions, including Crohn’s disease and type 2 diabetes, also can increase your risk.
In many cases, screenings find polyps that doctors can remove before they turn cancerous, and treatment is more likely to be successful when colon cancer is detected early. If you have not been screened recently, talk with your doctor about the best type of screening for you. Several different tests are used, including colonoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy.
Regular screening is one of the most powerful tools available in the fight against colorectal cancer. In March, why not go blue — and get screened?