March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancers comprise the third largest form of cancer in the United States. Since my eldest brother passed away of colon cancer at the young age of 50, I think it’s important not only to recognize the contributors to colorectal cancers, but also to talk about some ways to prevent it.
First and foremost, if you are over the age of 45 (the number used to be 50; in many cases, like my brother’s, 50 would have been too late),
This might entail a simple stool sample test, or you may require a colonoscopy, which is a visual examination of the rectum and colon. Yes, it’s true, everyone hates getting any of these tests or procedures. They’re embarrassing and uncomfortable. But not as much as they hate getting cancer, which is far more painful, its treatments wayyy more uncomfortable, so just do it.
I know what you’re going to say. And I know it because I come from a family of smokers. Guess what? My father died of lung cancer. My brother died of colon cancer. My mother has just survived her second bout of breast cancer. All were smokers. Coincidence? I think not.
Think of it in terms of the things you want to do. My brother expected to be there to walk his two daughters down the aisle some day, and that choice was taken away from him. My father wanted to be here to meet the rest of his grandchildren, and he was denied that joy. There are no guarantees in life, but we know that smoking raises your risk for cancer. So, in terms of your own life: Want to be around for your child’s first dance? Stop smoking. Planning to go on a grand hiking adventure when you retire? Quit smoking. Need to be there to take care of your spouse when you’re older? QUIT.
As I said, I’m from a family of smokers, and I know it’s not that easy. Saying it is simple, but the effects of nicotine withdrawal are real. But it can be done. There are programs to help you, your doctor can help you, and since your risk of any kind of cancer is significantly higher if you smoke, your future self will thank you.
No, I don’t mean pack up and move to a new neighborhood. I mean get out of your seat and move around. Sedentary lifestyles are a huge risk factor for colorectal cancers, so give yourself a better chance of not getting one by moving around more. Take a walk for lunch. Exercise a couple of times per week. Join a yoga class. Anything to get your body, and your insides, moving.
Well, and veggies, and fruits. Basically, cut down on your red meats, as a diet high in red meats raises your risk.
Spread the Word
One of the easiest ways we can cut down on the 100,000 deaths per year caused by colorectal cancer is to spread the word about getting screened. The earlier the disease is caught, the more likely we are to beat it. Colorectal cancers caught before they leave the colon have a 5 year 90 percent relative survival rate. The problem is only 1 in 3 is caught early. So let’s get the word out, spread awareness, and save some lives.
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Edited by Author
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