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Proper Prevention & Early Detection of Colon Cancer

March 19, 2009
Reinbeck Courier

Each month has a vast array of national awareness holidays attached. Among those in March, springs the topic of this month's Words of Wellness column. March is National Nutrition Month & National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. So let's take a look at colon cancer and what health professionals suggest we do to protect ourselves from this ugly disease.

Colon cancer is the nation's second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women, taking more than 56,000 lives each year.

Many people think there is little they can do to protect themselves against cancer, but we are said to be able to lower our overall cancer risk by being physically active and by eating a nutritionally balanced diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables.

Based on scientific research, we are now better equipped to fight this disease than ever before with more options for diagnosis and treatment, improved therapies and new technologies for early detection.

Physical activity and colon cancer: Prevention is spurred by a combination of personal investments we make such as the idea of physically active.

According to a report from the Cancer & Leukemia Group, activities equal to an hour-long walk each day lowers the risk of ever developing colon cancer AND assists survivors in their quest to remain in remission.

Moderate physical activity (PA) may include ideas such as walking, climbing stairs, bicycling, swimming and for some the simple idea of vigorous chores such as lawn mowing or raking.

Researchers suggest those who report doing moderate PA cut their risk of cancer reoccurrence by 40-50% compared to those who are not active and this is said to hold true regardless of age, gender, height or weight.

Nutrition and colon cancer: Like exterminators use their own set of chemicals and potions to rid a home of unwanted critters, our own cancer-fighting potions come from a variety of nutrients and vitamins we ingest.

For the ultimate cancer-fighting combo, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen suggest we be sure to include vitamin D, folate, tomato products, selenium, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower), and the antioxidant vitamins A, C & E in our diet.

They also suggest the best diet is the one we can stick to, one that we see as a lifestyle change.

"What else can I do?" 1) Get tested! Cancer prevention, as discussed above, is different than cancer detection.

Besides making daily personal investments by eating right and be physically active, we must also make annual personal investments such as check-ups/screenings. We make daily decisions regarding our health (e.g. fried or baked? stairs or elevator? Get the check-up or skip it?).

All of these decisions influence not only how long we will live, but how well we will live. Annual check-ups and/or screenings (e.g. colonoscopy screening) are vital for the purpose of early detection and are not to be overlooked. An important thing to understand about screenings, such as a colonoscopy for the detection of colon cancer, is the fact that screening "guidelines" are for individuals with "average" risk factors.

If you have a family history, such as two first-degree relatives with a certain type of cancer, getting screened at an earlier age is recommended. 2) Take aspirin! Researchers suggest taking 162 milligrams of aspirin a day (equivalent to 2 baby aspirins) can reduce the risk of getting colon, breast and prostate cancer by 40%.

Note: Taking the aspirin with a warm glass of water helps to dissolve the aspirin faster and decrease the risk of gastric side effects that may occur when an aspirin lands directly on the stomach lining. 3) Be aware! When we are talking about being healthy, awareness is paramount.

Colon cancer can grow for years without any symptoms, so be aware of what to look for. Warning signs include bloody stools, constipation, thin stools, stomach cramps, unexplained weight loss, a feeling of fullness, nausea, vomiting, gas and/or unexplained tiredness. Any and all of these symptoms are poor predictors in and of themselves.

Therefore, regular screenings are necessary. This column is in remembrance of my father, Jim Morris, who died of colon cancer in 2002.

His big heart & his warm smile are greatly missed & fondly remembered by many, including me.

Web Resources: nih.govText Resources: Good for You: Reducing You Risk for Developing Cancer Published by The American Cancer Society YOU: The Owner's Manual By: Dr. Mehmet Oz & Dr. Michael Roizen.



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