Protect Yourself from Colorectal Cancer

Friday, February 22, 2019

Colorectal cancer is one of the top cancer killers in the U.S., but experts agree that it is also one of the most preventable through lifestyle changes.

According to The American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society, you can diminish your risks by adopting these six cancer-fighting strategies:

1. Slim down

Those extra pounds, especially around your midsection, are a major risk factor for colorectal cancer. You can lose the gut by exercising frequently and eating fewer high-fat and high-calorie foods. Decrease your intake of sugary drinks, serve smaller portions at mealtime and improve digestion by eating slower.

If it's difficult for you to lose weight, ask your doctor about a weight-loss plan that's right for you.

2. Get on the move

If you’re a rookie when it comes to exercise, you can start gradually. Keep in mind that vigorous activities like aerobics and jogging are great for you, but you can also achieve great benefits from more moderate activities, such as swimming or brisk walking.

You should aim for at least 30 minutes of activity every day. As your fitness improves, go for 60 minutes. If you have difficulty meeting your daily goal, work out for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day.

3. Don’t rely solely on pills

Research indicates that some vitamins, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, or NSAIDs, (such as aspirin and ibuprofen) may help prevent colorectal cancer.

Be sure to check with your doctor before taking anti-inflammatory medicines regularly. They can cause side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding. Keep in mind that they're not recommended for people at average risk for the disease.

4. Adopt a healthier diet

Which diet regimen works best against cancer? Eat mostly fiber-rich plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains in products like cereals and breads.

Some research suggests aiming for at least 30 grams of fiber a day. Check nutrition labels on packaged products for fiber content.

Eating fresh foods? A half-cup of chopped vegetables can give you 2 to 4 grams of fiber.

Set a goal to limit yourself to no more than 18 ounces of red meat a week. For reference, remember that a 3-ounce portion is about the size of a deck of playing cards. Avoid meats that are smoked, cured or salted or that contain chemical preservatives.

5. Lighten up on the liquor

Evidence suggests that regular alcohol consumption can contribute to colorectal cancer in men and probably in women.

6. Put yourself to the test

Ultimately, you need to be tested if you want to ensure that you stay cancer-free.

Testing may be recommended beginning at the age of 40, but your doctor may want to test you at an earlier age or more frequently if you are at high risk for colorectal cancer. Screening tests can find cancer early and when it is most treatable. In fact, screenings can help prevent cancer by allowing doctors to find and remove polyps, growths that are not yet cancerous.

Tests that are likely to find both cancer and precancerous polyps include flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy).

Stool tests are also available, but they are less likely to find polyps. Your doctor can help you decide which test is appropriate for you.

You should make your doctor aware of rectal bleeding, prolonged diarrhea or constipation, stools that are thinner than usual, abnormal fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or frequent gas pains, bloating or cramps.

Protection begins here. Schedule a screening exam with a member of Watson Clinic’s Gastroenterology department by calling 863-680-7490.

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