What do you think are the top two cancers leading to death in the U.S.? If you’re a woman, breast cancer might be one of your answers. If you’re a man, perhaps prostate cancer tops your list. Well, you’d both be wrong! Lung cancer is the number one cancer resulting in death, but colorectal cancer ranks second in line. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and the good news is more people are beating the disease.
Here is important information for you about colorectal cancer – including ways to prevent it from ever affecting you!
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in the colon and the rectum, the two large organs that make up the large intestines. In the early stages, the tumors appear as polyps, small growths of cells that can become cancerous if they aren’t removed quickly.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, second only to lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that there are 145,000 new cases of colorectal cancer every year. 56,000 of those diagnosed will die annually, but if caught early, colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable of all cancers.
Symptoms and Detection
Yearly screenings (fecal occult) are recommended for everyone over the age of 50, and a sigmoidoscopy and/or colonoscopy may be performed every five to ten years, but if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, have had polyps removed before, or have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, you may be at increased risk and should seriously consider starting regular screenings at age 40. Regardless of risk level, your doctor may perform a digital rectal exam as part of your annual physical when you turn 40.
Polyps that have yet to develop in to cancer and colorectal cancer in its early stages often fails to produce noticeable symptoms, but as the cancer develops, warning signs include bloating or excessive gas, blood in the stool or narrowed stools, sudden weight loss, diarrhea, constipation and fatigue.
Daily exercise and a healthy diet play a large role in lowering the risk of colorectal cancer. A diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber is highly recommended, as is the taking of aspirin, folate and calcium supplements. Also, if you are clinically overweight, shedding those extra pounds will reduce your cancer risk.
Colon cleansing, such as colonic irrigation and other invasive procedures that manually flush out the contents of the colon, is considered controversial by some, as there have been no clinical trials that support its effectiveness. Some experts believe that it may do more harm than good. The most effective way to cleanse the colon is to do a fast. I've heard multiple success stories about "The Master Cleanse" by Stanley Burroughs, which is also known as the spicy lemonade cleanse. Finally, the most medically safe method keep the colon clean may be to add more fiber to your diet.
As a leading cause of death, the threat of colorectal cancer should not be taken lightly. But at the same time, you now have the knowledge – and thus the power - to reduce the likelihood of ever developing this deadly cancer.