Early detection of colon cancer can mean earlier and potentially life-saving treatment. The key to early detection is to receive colon cancer screenings when recommended.
The American Cancer Society recommends routine colon cancer screenings starting at age 45 for low-risk individuals, although your screening schedule may vary based on your personal health history and risk factors.
Gastroenterologist Eric Ibegbu, MD offers colon cancer screenings here at Atlantic Medical Group.
Below, we discuss the risk factors for colon cancer and what you can do if you’re at risk for developing colon cancer.
Know your risk factors
We know it’s not easy to think about colon cancer (or any type of cancer), but knowing your personal risk factors can help shape your screening schedule. Some risk factors are not within your control, which makes screening even more important.
Risk factors that you can’t control include:
- Underlying health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Personal history of colon cancer and/or colorectal polyps
- Family history of colon cancer and/or colorectal polyps
- Genetic syndromes including familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
In addition to family and personal health history, there are also lifestyle factors within your control that can increase your risk of colon cancer. These include:
- A low-fiber, high-fat diet
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
- Eating a diet high in processed meat
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco usage
- Being obese or overweight
- Lack of physical activity
Although you can’t do anything to change your personal or family health history, you can take action to reduce your risk of colon cancer associated with lifestyle risk factors.
Reducing your risk factors for colon cancer
In addition to receiving colonoscopies (or other screenings) when recommended, you can further support your colon health by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber-rich foods, in particular, help keep your colon healthy.
You can find fiber in apples, pears, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, oats, and almonds. Interestingly, studies show that coffee consumption supports your colon, too, and may even help those who already have colon cancer.
What you avoid in your diet is just as important as what you include. Limit your consumption of red meat, and if possible, avoid processed meat. Processed and cured meat include deli meat, hot dogs, and packaged meats.
Instead of alcohol, choose GI-friendly drinks like water, coffee, kombucha, fennel tea, and peppermint tea.
You can also reduce your risk for colon cancer by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly. Exercise helps reduce your risk of colon cancer by:
- Promoting a more efficient gastrointestinal system
- Reducing inflammation in your body
- Keeping your weight in a healthy range
- Supporting your immune system
Don’t delay your colon cancer screening
Not all colon polyps turn into cancer, but approximately 66% of polyps are precancerous. Because colon polyps can develop into colon cancer, a screening helps Dr. Ibegbu detect polyps even before they cause problems.
We offer several types of colon cancer screenings in our Kinston and Jacksonville, North Carolina offices. Four options include fecal occult blood test, fecal immunochemical test, colonoscopy, and flexible sigmoidoscopy.
To learn more about your colon screening options, don’t hesitate to contact us to book your appointment today.