What Is Colorectal Cancer and How Can You Prevent It? – Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month” and our team at North County Health Services (NCHS) aims at equipping you with knowledge about colorectal cancer (also referred to as colon cancer), how to identify symptoms, and what preventative measures that you can take.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team and we’ll be happy to help you!
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer, which may also be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, is a type of cancer that starts within the colon or the rectum. The name of the cancer is dependent on where the cancer begins. However, generally speaking both colon cancer and rectal cancer are grouped together due to the similarities between the two.
Colorectal cancers first start off as a “polyp,” which takes shape along the lining of the rectum or colon, and can change or adapt into cancer over time. This is why it’s important to have regular check-ups in order to spot polyps before turn cancerous. However, not all polyps immediately indicate cancer, as there are 2 primary types of polyps:
Adenomatous polyps (adenomas), which can sometimes change into cancer, and hyperplastic polyps (and inflammatory polyps), which are more common but generally do not become cancer.
What Are the Symptoms or Signs of Colorectal Cancer?
Even though colorectal cancer is on the inside of the body, there are certain symptoms that you can keep an eye out for. Below is a list of common symptoms, although experiencing these symptoms won’t immediately indicate that you have cancer.
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, and/or the consistency of stool, which lasts for four weeks or longer.
- General weakness or fatigue.
- Weight loss that can’t easily be explained.
- Noticing blood in the stool or rectal bleeding.
- Abdominal discomfort (cramps, gas, pain, etc.) that is abnormally persistent.
- A feeling that the bowel doesn’t completely empty.
If you notice any of these symptoms, give us a call or schedule a wellness visit with our experienced doctors. This is especially important if you notice blood in the stool or an ongoing change in bowel habits.
Preventative Measures for Colorectal Cancer
There are a number of risk factors that can generally, but not always, affect the likelihood of getting colorectal cancer, such as older age, low-fiber and high-fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, smoking, alcohol, and more.
In order to best prevent colon cancer or to catch it in its earliest stages, visiting your doctor for regular wellness visits is critical. Generally, it’s recommended to start annual colorectal cancer screenings at age 50, but if other factors may increase your likelihood of getting colon cancer, so you may consider starting annual visits sooner.
Aside from scheduling annual wellness checkups, there are other lifestyle changes that you can make which can help to improve the likelihood of preventing colorectal cancer:
- Eating a variety of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
- Using moderation when it comes to alcohol (or ruling it out completely).
- Stop smoking.
- Exercise the majority of the days of your week.
- Maintain an overall healthy weight.
- And more
Talk to your doctor about other lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the likelihood of having to deal with colorectal cancer.
At North County Health Services, we offer wellness visits to our patients, which will not only help you identify major problems and early signs of potential cancers, but we’ll also provide you with knowledge about your general health and what you can do to maintain or improve your health.