Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. And successful treatment can depend on how early the cancer is detected. That’s why it’s so important to have regular screenings — even when you have no symptoms.
As many communities have reopened businesses and resumed normal activities, you might feel more prepared to reschedule appointments you had postponed due to COVID-19. We understand you may still have concerns, but have peace of mind knowing we’ve enacted many additional safety measures designed to protect you.
Preventive screenings can have potentially lifesaving effects. Learn more about colon cancer detection and prevention, and what we’re doing to help keep you safe in our care with expert advice from surgeon, Thushy Siva, MD.
Take Preventive Measures Against Colon Cancer
AdventHealth’s CREATION Life philosophy emphasizes nutrition and physical activity as two critical aspects of maintaining good health. This applies to colon cancer prevention, too. By working these simple steps into your everyday routine, you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Don't smoke
- Eat a diet low in red and processed meats
- Eat more veggies and fruits
- Exercise regularly
- Limit alcohol intake
- Maintain a healthy weight
While a healthy lifestyle is important in preventing colorectal cancer, it’s still important to not let your guard down. Dr. Siva says, “Even people who live healthy lifestyles can get colorectal cancer. Some colorectal cancer has a genetic cause, meaning the person developed a mutation in their DNA or inherited certain genes from their parents.”
Ask Your Doctor When to Get a Colonoscopy
Traditionally, doctors have said most people should get their first colonoscopy at about age 50. This is called a screening.
“Even healthy people with no symptoms should get tested,” says Dr. Siva. “However, since an increasing number of younger adults are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society is now recommending starting at age 45.”
Of course, there are exceptions. African Americans, or those with a family history of colorectal cancer, for example, are at higher risk. Dr. Siva advises, “In this case, it’s often recommended that you begin colonoscopies even earlier.”
Your doctor should recommend a colonoscopy when you approach 45 or 50, but if they don’t, bring it up yourself. Also, make sure they’re aware of your family’s health history.
At-Home Test Options Are Helpful, But Not Always Accurate
In recent years, colorectal cancer home testing options have emerged, including:
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
- FIT-DNA test (also called Cologuard)
While home tests can seem more convenient and less invasive than having a colonoscopy, the stakes of missing colorectal cancer are high. Dr. Siva weighs in, “Home tests are still not as good as a colonoscopy, which can both identify and prevent cancer since polyps can be removed during the procedure.”
Identify the Signs of Colon Cancer
While screening is the best way to prevent or spot colorectal cancer early, being vigilant for tell-tale signs is also important. Symptoms can depend on the cancer’s size and location. Talk to a doctor if you experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in stool
- Changes in bowel habits
- Excessive gas
- Narrow stool width
- Unexplained weight loss
Reporting these symptoms early could mean the difference between spotting cancer when effective treatments exist, or waiting until it’s too late.
Get Screened Safely
If your doctor recommends a colorectal cancer screening, you can be confident that we’re taking extra safety precautions to protect you while you’re in our care, including universal mask use, social distancing, visitor limitations and more.
Taking steps to protect yourself against colorectal cancer not only protects your body — it gives you peace of mind. To take the next step, call our Digestive Health Navigator at 800-270-3043 or visit TampaBayDigestiveExperts.com.