Colorectal Cancer 101: Risks, Prevention And A Free Screening Kit

It’s not a high profile disease with celebrity spokespeople, but it is one of the most preventable cancers. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. While the exact cause of most colorectal cancer is unknown, there are known risk factors.
Age. Most people who have colorectal cancer are over age 50; however, it can occur at any age.

Prevention of colorectal cancer
Race and ethnicity. African-Americans have the highest risk for colorectal cancer of all racial groups in the U.S. Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have the highest colorectal cancer risk of any ethnic group in the world. 
Diet. Colorectal cancer is often associated with a diet high in red and processed meats.
Personal history of colorectal polyps. Benign growths on the wall of the colon or rectum are common in people over age 50, and may lead to colorectal cancer.
Personal history of colorectal cancer. People who have had colorectal cancer have an increased risk for another colorectal cancer.
Family history. People with a strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps in a first-degree relative (especially in a parent or sibling before the age of 45 or in two first-degree relatives of any age) have an increased risk for colorectal cancer.
Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. People who have an inflamed lining of the colon have an increased risk for colorectal cancer.
Inherited syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, also known as Lynch syndrome 
Physical inactivity
Heavy alcohol consumption
Type 2 diabetes
Although the exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, it may be possible to lower your risk of colorectal cancer with the following:
Diet, weight, and exercise. It is important to manage the risk factors you can control, such as diet, body weight, and exercise. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods, and limiting red and processed meats, plus exercising appropriately, even small amounts on a regular basis, can be helpful. Avoiding excess alcohol intake may also lower your risk. 
Drug therapy. Some studies have shown that low doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, and hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women, may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. But these drugs also have their own potentially serious risks, so it is important to discuss this with your health care provider.
Screenings. Perhaps most important to the prevention of colorectal cancer is having screening tests at appropriate ages. Screening may find some colorectal polyps that can be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous. Because some colorectal cancers cannot be prevented, finding them early is the best way to improve the chance of successful treatment, and reduce the number of deaths caused by colorectal cancer.

How GMC Can Help

If you're 50 or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. Colorectal cancer - cancer of the colon and rectum - is one of the most detectable, and, if found early enough, most treatable forms of cancer. For a free colorectal screening kit, call Gwinnett Medical Center at 678-312-5000.


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