Wellness Wednesday: Risks, symptoms and preventative measures for colorectal cancer
The Wellness Wednesday column is written by Scot Fleshman, an advanced registered nurse practitioner and board-certified family nurse practitioner. Fleshman and his wife, Jessica Hopkins, own Gig Harbor Primary Care.
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Did you know that “colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S.,” according to the National Foundation for Cancer Research?
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the colon or rectum. It is also commonly known as colon or rectal cancer. Both can result in severe outcomes, which is why we find it necessary to bring awareness to the topic. The colon and rectum contribute to the large intestine, a vital component of the gastrointestinal system responsible for digestion.
Polyps are irregular growths that can form inside the body and potentially turn cancerous. Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, but other types, such as lymphomas and sarcomas, can occur. Colorectal cancer is most frequently diagnosed in adults over the age of 50. However, thanks to new medical revelations, efficient treatment options such as surgery, medications, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy are available.
Who is at risk?
“Age is the #1 risk factor for colorectal cancer,” according to the National Foundation for Cancer Research. However, over 50% of all colorectal cancers are linked to risk factors that common lifestyle changes can decrease. The “risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 26 for women,” according to cancer.org. Although, many factors can impact a person’s risk. Those with a family history of the disease have a greater risk of developing it. Chronic inflammatory colon diseases have also been found to contribute to greater risk. It’s essential to consider these elements when determining your personal prevention plan.
What are the symptoms?
Though many people diagnosed do not experience symptoms early on, it is possible to notice a change in bowel movements, bleeding, unexplained fatigue, and abdominal pain. Contact your healthcare provider if you begin to notice any concerning symptoms.
Colorectal cancer is expected to cause 52,550 deaths during 2023, according to cancer.org. The positive news, however, is that the death rate is decreasing due to new medical advances and an increase in preventative screenings. Colorectal polyps can now be found and removed before developing into cancer. We want to reiterate the importance of always attending your screenings and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. No one is immune to this disease, and we want to do our part in helping you live a healthy and happy life. Luckily, various screening options exist, making it convenient to find the best preventive methods for you.
Simple lifestyle changes
Since you have little control over your genetics and unique medical history, we recommend making intelligent choices in the aspects of your life you can control. Small healthy decisions each day can work together to help your body form strength and resilience for all unexpected battles that life throws your way.
A healthy diet will keep your body functioning properly and take care of the foundation for your overall health. We recommend eating balanced meals with lots of vitamins and nutrients. If you choose to drink alcohol, remain conscious of how it makes you feel, and if you currently smoke, talk to a professional to help you develop a plan to quit. Remember, it’s never too late!
Daily exercise is another fantastic thing you can do for your body. Start at a level you are comfortable with and can begin making a habit of. There is no need to set unrealistic goals that will cause you to form resentment toward movement down the road. Pick a physical activity that makes you happy and that you enjoy doing. It can even help to find a fitness buddy to hold each other accountable and inspire one another to become better versions of yourselves.