Colon cancer is one of the most prominent and dangerous forms of cancer there is, and yet it doesn’t get the same exposure as other cancers.
In 2016, 140,000 people in the US were diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, and it is the fourth most common cancer overall.
Perhaps the taboo of talking about this type of cancer leads to it being overlooked, but that is why it is so important to realize the signs. The earlier it is caught, the chance of it being successfully treated is much higher.
Look out for the signs below and don’t ignore them!
Perhaps one of the most difficult symptoms to diagnose, cramps are the first sign that something may be up. However, it’s also a symptom of many other less serious conditions, like excess gas and poor digestion.
Like the odd cramp isn’t a cause for concern, chronic, intense, and long-lasting pain accompanied with any other symptom below should be reported to your general practitioner as soon as possible.
Fatigue is also often overlooked as it seems harmless and less serious. In fact, many people feel fatigue on a regular basis, mainly due to lack of sleep.
However, a constant fatigue which is not a result of lack of sleep or malnutrition shouldn’t be taken for granted. Cancer cells cause fatigue due to the fact that they utilize body`s energy or cause blood loss.
3. Sudden weight loss
If you lose 5% of your body weight in six months without trying, this is classed as ‘unexplained’ weight loss, and could be a sign of colon cancer. The weight loss is caused by the immune system fighting extra hard to stop the cancer cells from multiplying, or if there is a large tumor in the colon, this can cause a blockage which results in weight loss.
4. Irregular bowel movements
Since cancer can affect bowel structure, meaning that it can also influence the timing, consistency, and appearance of your stool.
Colon polyps can turn into tumor over time, which can make your stool either more diarrhea-like or leave you constipated. If your bowel movements have changed or if they excessively dark, it’s time to visit your doctor.
5. Bloody stool
Most people feel too embarrassed to talk about this issue, which is one of the reasons why colon cancer often goes undetected.
Sometimes the blood in the stool may become too dark to notice unless it is fully examined. Both bloody stool and bleeding from the rectum may be indicative to colon and rectal cancer. So, if you notice red blood on the toilet paper after wiping or reddish water in the toilet bowel, get checked.
How to lower your risk of colon cancer
If your family has a history of cancer, or if you suffer from an inflammatory condition of your bowels, here are a few things you need to start doing as soon as possible:
1. Eat your vegetables and some fruits
Vegetables contain antioxidants and disease-fighting compounds like magnesium. It has been scientifically shown that for every 100-milligram increase in magnesium, the risk of colon cancer decreased by 12 percent. In addition to magnesium, phytochemicals found in veggies can remove carcinogens and reduce inflammation.
Cruciferous veggies are especially beneficial due to their sulforaphane content. This compound has been found to stop the growth of colon cancer-derived tumors.
2. Eat more fiber
Dietary fiber has been linked with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, particularly distal colon cancer and colorectal adenoma. For every 10 grams of fiber, the risk of colon cancer decreases by 10 percent.
A 2005 study revealed that dried plums “favorably altered … colon cancer risk factors” in rats, possibly due to their high content of dietary fiber and polyphenolics.
3. Avoid processed meats
This means that you should avoid bacon, hamburgers, salami, hot dogs, ham, pastrami, sausages, pepperoni, and all those meats preserved by salting, curing, smoking, or the addition of chemical preservatives. They are converted into nitrosamines, which are linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.
4. Exercise on a regular basis
Exercising on a regular basis notably reduces the risk of colon cancer. According to one study, active individuals have 30-40 percent reduction in their colon cancer risk compared to inactive individuals.
Exercise lowers insulin levels, which is one of the best ways to reduce cancer risk. Certain studies even suggested that exercise triggers apoptosis, causing the cancerous cells to die.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
It is considered that obesity elevates the risk of various cancers, including colon cancer. A 2014 study showed that every 11-pound increase in body weight leads to an increased risk for 10 types of cancer. Excess belly fat is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer.
6. Limit alcohol intake and avoid smoking
Both of these habits are linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. When it comes to alcohol, moderate alcohol intake involves 1 ounce of hard liquor, a 12-ounce beer, or a 5-ounce glass of wine with a meal daily.
7. Eat garlic
People who eat a lot of raw garlic have a lower risk of colorectal and stomach cancers. In addition, among those with inoperable forms of colon, pancreatic, or liver cancer, taking garlic for six months led to improved immune function.