According to the American Cancer Society, our lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20. This March, join Saint Louis University to share the message that prevention can stop colorectal cancer before it starts and help us change these odds.
Colonoscopies, performed to screen for colon and rectal cancer, are the number one way to discover pre-cancerous growths, according to Saint Louis University assistant professor of internal medicine, Jason Taylor, M.D. A patient uses a liquid preparation to clean out their colon. On the following day, a gastroenterologist uses a high-resolution endoscope to look at the inside of the colon to evaluate and remove colon polyps and make sure there is no colon cancer.
Taylor recommends that each person take colonoscopy guidelines to heart and take advantage of the chance to remove polyps before they become cancerous.
"I see patients who frequently delay their colonoscopy because they feel well and think that colon cancer cannot affect them," Taylor said. "In some cases, it does not matter. Unfortunately, other times this delay is catastrophic.
"Someone who may have been able to have a colon polyp completely removed during a colonoscopy when it was done at age 40 or 50, may have colon cancer that is not able to be surgically resected by the time they finally choose to have a colonoscopy years later."
It's important to know when you should schedule your appointment and also to know your family history. A family history of colon cancer in a first-degree relative roughly doubles your risk of colorectal cancer.
When to Schedule a Colonoscopy
•Most people should schedule a colonoscopy when they turn 50, and then every 10 years after that. If a colonoscopy uncovers certain types of polyps (pre-cancerous growths), your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings.
•If your mom, dad, brother or sister had a colonoscopy that discovered polyps, you should schedule your first colonoscopy at age 40.
•If your mom, dad, brother or sister had colon or rectal cancer, you should schedule a colonoscopy 10 years before your family member was diagnosed. So, if your mother was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 42, you should have your first colonoscopy at 32.
Reduce your Risk Factors
Colonoscopies are valuable screening tools, but they're not the only way you can reduce your cancer risk. A meta-analysis of 52 studies found a 24 percent reduction in colorectal cancer in those who exercise.
The following elements of a healthy lifestyle - which support good health in many different ways - also are good for your colon.
•Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol use should be limited to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
•Exercise. Those who exercise have a decreased risk of colon cancer.
•Limit amount of fat in your diet.
•Limit the amount of red meats (beef, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats). These things can increase colorectal cancer risk.
•Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. This type of diet has been linked with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.