As we near the end of Colorectal Cancer Prevention Month, Caduceus would like to highlight for our patients that awareness of gut health is just the beginning. With proper education and screening, colon disease can be treated, defeated, or avoided altogether.
First, let’s talk about the late form to be avoided: colorectal cancer. It’s the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States, but the good news is that it’s also one of the most preventable. Screening tests can detect abnormal growths in the colon, such as polyps, before they become cancerous.
The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people with an average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. I know, that likely sounds too young for something like this. But for people with a higher risk, such as a family history of colorectal cancer, screening may need to start earlier.
Others who should be screened earlier are people with:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps
- Genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch Syndrome
Now you might be thinking that screening sounds like a good idea, but you’re dreading that right of passage exam. We’re here to get you through to the other side. While colonoscopy is the most common and often the preferred method (yes with the option for medication), there are other routes including stool tests, flexible scopes, and virtual colonoscopy. These can be discussed with either your primary care doctor or your Gastroenterology specialist.
But screening isn’t the only thing you can do to prevent colorectal cancer. You can also make lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet that’s high in fiber and low in red and processed meats
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption
You should also know that colon cancer has started to skew younger: a new study from the American Cancer Society found that 1 in 5 cases diagnosed today occurs in adults younger than 55, compared to 1 in 10 in 1995. While no one cause has been identified – genetics, the microbiome, and low screening rates are all believed to play a factor.
So in addition to keeping up with your screening be sure to watch out for worrisome symptoms: abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, changes in the frequency, size, or appearance of stools, and rectal bleeding.
In the end, trust your gut.
Taking care of your colon is an important part of overall health. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting screened regularly, you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
If your health plan requires a referral, please schedule an in-office visit or Zoom call with your primary care provider (PCP). You can book directly from the button below or request an appointment through your patient portal.
If your health plan does not require a referral, you can book a Zoom call with our GI advanced care practitioner for your colonoscopy screening, that would be needed prior to booking your procedure. You can request an appointment from the button below or request directly through your patient portal.
Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, MSHP, FACOG
Chief Medical Officer | Caduceus Medical Group and PDQ Urgent Care and More