I’ve been driving my dad to get colonoscopies for years. Every time it’s the same procedure: nearly a week of eating a specific diet, then drinking a couple of liters of a solution to clean him out. Of course, there’s the stress of knowing what’s coming once he gets to the doctor’s.
Now, while this may be a bit of a taboo subject, colonoscopies are very important and necessary for detecting colorectal cancers. Colorectal cancers grow in polyps inside your rectum and intestinal tract and are very difficult to detect without getting a colonoscopy. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be avoided if people received regular checkups, which should be scheduled about every three to 10 years depending on your family history.
However, last week, the FDA announced a new, take-home screening test for colon cancer. “Cologuard,” a new stool-based screening test, doesn’t require any dietary restrictions or bowel preparation and can be done in the privacy of your own home. You just have to order it from your doctor. And although it’s not as thorough as a colonoscopy, which should be considered the gold standard in this area, Cologuard could help detect cancer in its earliest stages, before there are any symptoms. The test is $600.00, but it’s likely it can be covered under your Medicare plan.
Colon cancer is still a pretty tough nut to crack. No one is exactly sure what causes it, but there are some ideas on how you can prevent it. Of course, it also doesn’t help that the topic is one most people are too shy to discuss.
The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to go for regular screenings. If you’re over 50 and haven’t had a colonoscopy, talk to your family doctor immediately. It’s really the only way to know whether or not you have cancer before it’s too late.
Diet, exercise, and weight are also linked to colorectal cancers. Studies have shown that belly fat is closely linked, as is being overweight or obese. These concerns are often tied to poor nutrition, so an easy way to lower your risk is to adjust your diet. Diets that include more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk, so be sure to work these foods into each meal. On the other hand, diets high in processed foods and red meat can increase your risk, so these are foods you should avoid, especially if you have a family history of colorectal cancer.
Finally, studies also show that polyps form from inactivity, so moderate activity can help prevent this. To reduce your risk even more, work your way up to regular, vigorous workouts.
By changing your lifestyle and monitoring polyp growth, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. It’s a serious topic, so talk to your doctor today—it could mean the difference between life and death.
Sources for Today’s Article:
“Can colon cancer be prevented?” American Cancer Society web site, January 31, 2014; http://www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer/detailedguide/colorectal-cancer-prevention, last accessed October 22, 2014.
Wadas-Willingham, V., “New at-home test may detect colon cancer,” CNN web site, August 14, 2014; http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/08/14/new-at-home-test-may-detect-colon-cancer/, last accessed October 22, 2014.