With March comes the first glimpse of warmer weather and goals of better health. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Unfortunately, the number of individuals diagnosed each year is growing, topping off at nearly 150,000 newly diagnosed cases last year.
“Awareness is important with this disease. Early detection could save your life,” says Renea Cribbs, RN and charge nurse at the North Richland Hills Endoscopy in Fort Worth, Texas. “It is an easy out-patient procedure that may make you uncomfortable for a day – that’s nothing compared to a lifetime of good health.”
Colonoscopies are a low-risk procedure that requires minimal discomfort. Cribbs goes on to describe just what patients must endure, “Prepping is worse than the actual procedure. You are put into a twilight sleep for the procedure, so the worst part is the cleansing of the colon the day before, when you have to fast and drink a specially-designed liquid. If a polyp is found during the procedure, it can be removed in that moment – it is all one simple step, when detected early. ”
And experts nationwide agree. Dr. George Daneker, chief of staff and surgery of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) of the Southeast told the Times-Herald.com, “The most common symptom of an early-stage colorectal cancer is nothing… That’s part of the problem.” The “problem” being that most Americans don’t go to the doctor unless something is ailing them.
By the time you see symptoms of colon or rectal cancer – bright red or dark blood in your stools or anemia and fatigue – it is often too late. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 103,000 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed this year.
Lifestyle changes for the prevention of colon cancer are truly no different than for other commonly cited chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease. A balanced diet including lean sources of protein and high vegetable intake, routine physical activity and nutrient supplementation, specifically vitamin D and calcium will aid in the prevention of colon cancer. Habits like smoking, alcohol consumption and excessive intake of red meat are known to increase your risk of this disease.
The “problem,” described by Dr. Daneker is what “the new frontier of medicine” is all about, according to Tim Morley, DO and Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of Manhattan, “Health promotion practices and the medical industry are evolving – the new frontier of medicine is all about prevention, whether it is early detection of disease or minimizing the impact of aging. Stopping something before it starts is much more effective – it saves lives, money, time and unnecessary discomforts. The difference is amazing.”
To learn more about colorectal screenings and prevention, visit stopcoloncancernow.com. This website not only offers tips for preventing colorectal cancer, but can help you find a colonoscopy center near you.