Colorectal cancer, which encompasses cancers of both the colon and rectum, is not something to take lightly. The World Health Organization notes that cancer is the leading cause of death across the globe and that colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the world. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) indicates that approximately 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, and 56,000 Americans will die from the disease this year. Colorectal cancer is second only to lung cancer in numbers of deaths in the United States. Women and men are affected by colorectal cancer with a nearly equal frequency. The colon is a lower portion of the large intestines, while the rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance says most colorectal cancers initially develop as polyps, which are abnormal growths. Polyps may become cancerous later on if they are not removed. The general population faces a lifetime risk of about 5% for developing the disease, states ASCRS, while someone with a family history of colorectal cancer has a 10 to 15% greater risk. For people who suffer from ulcerative colitis, the risk for developing colorectal cancer rises to more than 50%. A persistent change in bowel habits can be a first indicator of colorectal cancer, says the Mayo Clinic. Changes may include a change in the consistency of stool. Rectal bleeding, persistent abdominal discomfort, a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely, and unexplained weight loss are other symptoms. Although doctors are not sure what causes colorectal cancer, the following are some risk factors for the disease: Ethnic background, particularly being African American Personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps Inflammatory intestinal conditions Inherited genes and syndromes Being overweight or obese Being a cigarette smoker Using alcohol heavily Having had radiation therapy on the abdomen Colorectal Screening The U.S. National Library of Medicine (USNLM) recommends that men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 be screened for colorectal cancer every year. Physicians may recommend colorectal screening for patients under age 50 with a family history of colon cancer or polyps. In addition, they may consider screenings for those under 50 who have a history of inflammatory bowel disease. Upon making such recommendations, doctors will discuss patients’ screening options, which include an assortment of tests, and then recommend which test might be best for the patient. Doctors screen for colorectal cancer in various ways, and many of these screenings need not be conducted annually. A colonoscopy is generally used to see the lining of the colon to look for the presence of polyps. However, the USNLM recommends that all men and women ages 50 to 75 receive a fecal occult blood, or stool-based, test every year. In addition, men and women should receive a fecal immunochemical, or FIT, test every year. The FIT is a simple test that adults can conduct in the privacy of their own homes. The USNLM recommends men and women receive stool DNA tests every three years, flexible sigmoidoscopy tests every five years, and double-contrast barium enemas every five years. Virtual colonoscopies (once every five years) and colonoscopies (once every 10 years) also may be recommended. Dr. James Ervin of Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs states, “Screening in the recommended intervals may decrease the occurance of colorectal cancer by up to 90%.” Preventative Measures In addition to screening, there are other preventative measures that may be taken against colon cancer. Guy’s Pharmacy suggests taking a daily dietary supplement like Guy’s Pharmacy Colon Health Support to help promote total colon health. Colon Health Support contains soluble fiber, flaxseed meal, and apple pectin that offers a complete and natural formula to help soothe, balance, and replenish the gastrointestinal tract. Call 601-647-0030, or stop by Guy’s Pharmacy in Crystal Springs for more information on Colon Health Support, and let their pharmacy experts suggest daily supplements that will not interfere with your current medications and improve your overall health. Removing polyps before they become cancerous, consuming a low-fat diet that is high in vegetable and fruit intake, as well as regular exercise, may also lower colorectal cancer risk. According to www.stopcoloncancernow.com, research shows that adults who increase their physical activity in intensity, duration, or frequency can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 30 to 40%, compared to adults who are sedentary. Exercising can influence the development of colon cancer in several different ways by: Creating a more efficient gastrointestinal system by increasing blood flow and circulation Reducing insulin levels, which are responsible for tumor cell division and growth Playing a role in energy balance and hormone metabolism Reducing the time that the colon is exposed to carcinogens Altering inflammatory and immune factors that influence colon cancer risk The website also suggests that the recommended amount of exercise to protect against colon cancer is estimated to be between 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. The type, duration, and level of intensity of exercise will vary from person to person, so you should discuss your exercise goals with your doctor before beginning any new regime. Currently, there are no conclusive studies to show whether physical activity can help prevent rectal cancer, adenomas, or polyps, but there is a clear association between exercise and colon cancer. If you have colon cancer, exercise is even more important. Research shows that colon cancer survivors can reduce the risk of their cancer recurring by as much as 50% by exercising. Physical activity can also increase survival and can definitely enhance quality of life by reducing fatigue and promoting energy balance. If you have never made exercise a part of your life, reach out to your provider at Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs for assistance in creating a workout routine that is appropriate for your age and activity levels. The staff at Peak Fitness of Crystal Springs is also dedicated to helping you stay healthy. Peak Fitness provides a 24-hour fitness facility, top-of-the-line equipment, and state-of-the-art accommodations to ensure you have the most productive workout each and every visit. For more information about Peak Fitness membership rates, call 601-892-4800, or visit their facility located in Suite B, 26000 Highway 51, Crystal Springs, beside the old Fred’s Dollar Store. For additional information on the colorectal screening options that are right for you or to schedule a routine doctor’s visit, contact your provider at Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs, 601-892-3063. To learn more about colorectal cancer, visit www.mayoclinic.org and www.stopcoloncancernow.com.