Simply put, colon cancer is cancer of the lower part of the digestive tract — the large intestine or colon. It is characterized by the development of malignant cells in the inner wall or lining of the colon. During its early stages when it is best treated, colon cancer produces no symptoms. It’s for this reason why undergoing regular screening is very important beginning at 50 years of age, or earlier if there are additional risk factors present.
Here are a few more crucial facts about this dreaded disease that you might want to know about:
- Colon cancer is the 3rd leading type of cancer in males. In females, it is the 4th leading type of cancer.
- Different risk factors for colon cancer include family history, presence of colon polyps (small clumps of cells in the large intestine that are usually harmless but may cause cancer of the colon in the long run) and chronic ulcerative colitis (inflammation of and ulcers in the inner lining of the large intestine).
- Starting at 50 years old, medical experts recommend for everyone to get regular screening for colon cancer. It’s a good idea to get screened earlier if other risk factors are present, such as family members with the disease.
- Diagnosis is usually made through barium enema (x-ray examination of the colon) or colonoscopy (viewing of the large intestine using a long and flexible tube with a camera). Identified cancer tissue often undergoes biopsy for confirmation.
- The most common treatment for colon cancer is surgery.
The good news is colon cancer can be prevented by modifying your diet and doing some lifestyle changes. The following are some of the things that may be done to help considerably lower your risk of developing this disease:
- Quit smoking – Refrain from assuming that smoking is bad only for the lungs and heart. According to the experts, this habit can also increase your risk of having colon cancer and actually dying from it.
- Reduce alcohol intake – It is said that a serving of alcohol a day is actually good for your health. However, too much of this beverage can only put you at higher risk of suffering from colon cancer. It’s not just cancer of the large intestine that you might get with alcoholism, but also many other types of cancer.
- Maintain an ideal weight – Obesity is associated with a host of complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and liver disease. Having excess pounds is also linked to colon cancer. Watching what you eat and having an active lifestyle help in keeping obesity at bay.
- Limit intake of red meat – Several studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between high intake of red meat and colon cancer development. This is especially true when red meat is cooked at high temperature or charred. Limiting the consumption of red meat and opting for braising, boiling or any other type of low-temperature cooking may help ward off colon cancer.
- Eat high-fiber foods – Experts say that fiber helps prevent the formation of colon polyps that may eventually lead to cancer of the large intestine. That is why it’s a wonderful idea to include more high-fiber foods in your daily diet. Make sure you get sufficient servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Brown rice, legumes and corn are all packed with fiber too.
- Consume foods rich in antioxidants – Antioxidants are molecules that are known to help fight off the development of cancer cells. To help reduce your risk of having colon cancer, make sure that you consume green tea, fruits and vegetables.
- Load up on cruciferous vegetables – Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur that helps neutralize toxins along the large intestine. Some examples of colon cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, arugula, bok choi, collard greens, kale, radish, cauliflower, broccoli and watercress.