Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States and is responsible for more deaths than any other type besides lung cancer. Colorectal cancer refers to cancerous growths of the colon, the lower section of the intestines including the last section of the colon that connects to the rectum. Undetected polyps that eventually become cancerous cause the majority of these cases. Polyps are typically asymptomatic and small, often causing them to go undiagnosed until they become cancerous and begin to cause symptoms. With early detection and treatment of polyps as well as making a few lifestyle changes, the chances of developing this type of cancer can be significantly reduced.

Routine Screenings

Doctors recommend that people begin having colon screenings when they reach the age of 50 although those who have a family history of this type of cancer should begin having screenings at an earlier age. It is also recommended that American Indians and African Americans begin screenings when they turn 45. There are several different types of screenings available. These include fecal occult blood tests that should be done yearly, flexible signoidoscopy that is recommended every five years, colonoscopy screenings every 10 years and CT colonography, which is done every five years. Deciding on which type of screening to have should be discussed with a physician as each has its own benefits and depending on risk factors, more than one type of screening may be recommended as well as screenings that are more frequent. Colonoscopy is a common screening method as this procedure not only allows the physician to examine the colon for polyps, but if any are found, they can be removed immediately and tested for cancerous cells.

Prevention with Lifestyle Changes

Reducing the risk of colorectal cancer can also be achieved by simply eating right and exercising. According to the National Cancer Institute, diets should include low-fat foods as well as a variety of foods that help keep the colon healthy such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These foods contain antioxidants to help rid the body of toxins, fiber to help keep the colon clean and vitamins and minerals to help keep the colon healthy and functioning properly. Alcohol consumption should be kept to a minimum and those who smoke should find ways to quit. Regular exercise is also important as well as maintaining proper weight. Although polyps often do not have any symptoms, if an individual experiences blood in their stool, black stool, diarrhea or constipation that last longer than a week or bleeding from the anus, an Idaho Falls gastroenterologist should be seen as soon as possible.