As the third most common cause of cancer-related death, colon cancer continues to affect thousands of new patients each year. Many of these diagnoses are made after the cancer has progressed, as colon cancer often goes unnoticed until more obvious symptoms start appearing. To bring more awareness to the disease, President Bill Clinton officially dedicated the month of March to colon and colorectal cancer awareness.
Colon cancer affects the large intestine of the digestive tract and often begins as noncancerous polyps, which are benign clumps of cells. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous and develop into colon cancer, or colorectal cancer if the rectum is affected too.
Symptoms of colon cancer usually begin silently, so that’s why it is important to know your family history or any other risk factors that could increase your chances of getting colon cancer.
Colon Cancer Symptoms
While regular screenings are recommended, some of the symptoms that may alert you to colon cancer are:
- Changes in your bowel movements, including persistent constipation or diarrhea (lasts longer than 4 weeks)
- Blood in your stool or rectal bleeding
- Stomach discomfort that persists, including gas, cramps, or stomach pain
- Feeling fatigued or weak
- Unexplained weight loss
- Feeling fullness in your bowel, like it hasn’t completely been emptied
Most of these symptoms usually don’t show up at the first signs of colon cancer. It’s important to speak with your doctor and plan an appropriate age to begin getting screened and plan out the frequency of those check-ups.
Colon Cancer Prevention
Whether you’re at average risk for colon cancer or an increased hereditary risk, colon cancer is not necessarily inevitable. There are certain tips you can follow to help you prevent and lessen your chances of getting colon cancer.
Some natural tips you can follow include:
Maintain a high-fiber, low-fat diet
Fiber is one of the best dietary defenses against colon cancer. Fiber has a tendency to add bulk to the digestive system, which helps waste pass faster through the colon. Since waste typically contains cancer-causing substances, the less time it hangs out in your colon, the better it is.
Another benefit of fiber in the diet is that when fiber is broken down in the digestive system, a substance called butyrate is created, which can help inhibit the growth of any tumors in the colon and rectum.
Drink Green Tea
In a 2011 study, researchers concluded that green tea drinkers had a reduced risk of getting colon cancer. Certain compounds in green tea, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate, the major catechin of green tea, have shown to have many cancer-preventing properties. This is why scientists believe green tea can be an effective natural prevention method.
Getting your body moving every day can help prevent many cancers, including colon cancer. Exercise will not only reduce your chances of suffering from digestive issues like constipation, which has been considered a potential risk for colon cancer, it will also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Researchers have found that there is an increased prevalence of colorectal tumors among people who have a higher BMI (body mass index). In general, obesity raises cancer risk by 33%, so it’s important to make sure you’re exercising regularly and keeping a healthy weight. It’s best to aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Eat More Garlic
Eating more garlic has been linked with a reduction in the risk of developing a variety of cancers, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract. Scientists believe this is because of garlic’s antibacterial properties.
Garlic is also rich in flavonoids, which are known to be powerful antioxidants. Other foods that share similar protective qualities like garlic include onions, leeks, scallions, and chives.
As discussed, it’s important to follow a healthy, fiber-rich diet and consistent exercise regimen to give yourself the best chance of avoiding diseases like colon cancer. That said, it’s also important that you get yourself screened by your doctor if you’re 50 years and older, or if colon cancer runs in your family.
Living a healthy lifestyle paired with awareness and communication with your doctor is the best advice you can follow when it comes to preventing colon cancer.