Food is critical to our survival, and your digestive system is an important part of how you intake, process, and remove food from your body. Sadly, there are several conditions that affect your digestive tract, and their effects on the body range from mildly irritating to highly dangerous. Colon cancer (or colorectal cancer) is a condition that affects your lower intestine or colon, and while it is manageable in its early stages, it can be harder to treat if not caught in time.
Colon cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of death in the United States. While it can be dangerous, there are many ways you can reduce your risk of getting this potentially dangerous form of cancer. Let’s examine this illness by looking at the causes and symptoms of colon cancer and how you can lower your risks of getting it.
If you live in the Austin, Texas area, and are struggling with the symptoms of colon cancer or other digestive conditions, Dr. Rajesh Mehta and the dedicated team at LoneStar Gastroenterology can help.
Your colon is the lowest part of your intestines, and it consists of five parts: the cecum (ascending colon), the transverse colon, the descending colon, the sigmoid colon, and the rectum. After the nutrients from the foods you eat are absorbed in the small intestine, the colon takes what is left and converts the waste into stool that passes out through your rectum.
Your colon has layers of membrane, tissue, and muscle to help with this process. Colon cancer can form when the cells in your mucosa (the innermost lining of your intestinal cells) mutate and change, forming polyps. The polyps become cancerous in your colon when the cells continue to grow and multiply uncontrollably.
Common causes of colon cancer include medical conditions and lifestyle choices, including family history, diabetes, obesity, smoking, alcohol, inflammatory intestinal conditions, and inherited syndromes. Diets low in fiber and high in fats also increase your risks, as well as a sedentary lifestyle. This condition is also more common as you age and in specific ethnicities (African Americans are often at the highest risk).
With this condition, you can expect symptoms like constant changes in your bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal discomfort (gas, bloating, cramps), unexplained weight loss, and fatigue. You may also feel lke your bowel doesn’t empty when you go to the bathroom.
Here are some ways to reduce your risks of getting colon cancer:
Reducing the amount of red meat, processed meat, and dietary fats can make a difference in avoiding colon cancer. Focus on a diet of more plant-based foods, lean meats, and fruits.
Reducing your weight will also help decrease your chances of getting this cancer, so get more physical exercise on a regular basis, stay active and, if necessary, work on a weight plan with your doctor.
It will also help to stop smoking, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, as both can lead to cancer and a number of other health problems.
Other illnesses can increase the risk of colon cancer, like diabetes, so be sure to get the condition under control to lower your chances of developing it.
People generally start getting colon cancer screenings around 45, but if you have a family history or other intestinal issues, you may need them earlier. Screenings help determine your risks, and getting one will make all the difference if there’s any evidence of cancer.
Colon cancer is a serious illness but preventable, and if you are dealing with it, we can help. Make an appointment with Dr. Mehta and LoneStar Gastroenterology today to get screened.