March 08, 2023 / Molina Healthcare
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the U.S.
Colorectal cancer, or colon cancer, starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). But, what do the large intestine and rectum do, exactly? The colon and rectum make up the large intestine. The large intestine is part of the digestive system. It absorbs water and changes waste from liquid into stool. The stool goes through the rectum. The rectum ends at the anus. The rectum and anus have muscles that control bowel movements.
Doctors suggest getting a screening at the age of 45. Colorectal cancer might not show any signs. That’s why it is important to get a colorectal cancer screening. If it is caught early, it can even be treated.
There are five types of colorectal cancer screening tests:
A colonoscopy is the standard test for colorectal cancer. It’s the only test that can look at your large intestine at one time.
If you start to see or have colorectal cancer symptoms or have family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor right away.
Here are some steps to take to help reduce your risk of developing the disease.
Maintain a healthy weight. Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread, nuts and beans.
Don’t smoke. Smoking is often linked to lung cancer. But it is also linked to other cancers, too. People who smoke are more likely to get colorectal cancer.
Be physically active. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Do moderate-intensity exercise. That includes things like taking a brisk walk, dancing or doubles tennis.
Limit alcohol. Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of getting cancer. Women should not have more than one drink per day. Men should not have more than two drinks per day.
Limit red meat. Red and processed meats are linked to an increased risk of colon and rectum cancer. Cooking or processing meat at high temperatures can introduce chemicals that can cause cancer. The American Institute for Cancer suggests limiting red meat to three times a week. You can replace red meat with poultry, fish, legumes and nuts.
Get enough calcium and vitamin D. Higher levels of vitamin D and calcium can lessen your chances of getting colorectal cancer. You can get more vitamin D by taking supplements. You can also get more through your diet. Eggs, beans and greens are high in calcium. Eggs, fatty fish and fortified dairy products are rich sources of vitamin D.
Schedule your colonoscopy with your health care provider. Don’t let the fear of a colonoscopy stop you from staying healthy!