With March being colon cancer awareness month, there’s no better time to learn the facts about the disease, how it starts, and the impact it has on your life. Colon cancer is one of the top causes of cancer deaths. Read that again and let it sink in.
Fortunately, learning about colon cancer may help you take steps toward preventing the disease, along with talking to your doctor about a colon cancer screening.
Our specialists at Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division in Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, and Highland, New York, routinely provide colon cancer screenings. If your risk for colon cancer is high, we can help you navigate any changes you need to make to your diet or habits to mitigate the risk.
In recognition of colon cancer awareness month, here are some facts you should know about colon cancer:
1. You might not have symptoms in the early stages
At first, colon cancer appears without symptoms. As the cancer grows in your intestine, symptoms appear gradually.
Some of the initial symptoms might not seem that unusual either. For example, changes in stool consistency and color, as well as abdominal cramping and bloating, are common in the early stages. You might also lose your appetite and experience unexplained weight loss.
Screenings are tests for certain cancers and other diseases. Our team can tell you if you’re at risk of colon cancer and if you should consider scheduling colon cancer screenings based on your age and medical history.
2. Colon cancer can affect the menstrual cycle
Symptoms of colon cancer are mostly the same in men and women, but women may experience changes in menstruation alongside the gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, bloating, and changes in stool.
Colon cancer can cause irregular periods because it often causes iron deficiency anemia — a low red blood cell count often due to loss of blood. Bleeding in the colon caused by colon cancer can lower your red blood cell count, thus disrupting the menstrual cycle and causing other anemic symptoms like pale skin, heart palpitations, and lethargy.
3. Your diet can increase your risk
Just like other cancers, colon cancer develops because of cell changes and uncontrollable cell division. Yet, some behaviors and your genetics can put you at a higher risk than others. Our team might encourage you to examine your diet and cut back on foods and beverages that increase colon cancer risk, including:
- Red meat
- Saturated fat
- Alcoholic drinks
- Processed meat
Additionally, tobacco use and weight challenges can increase your risk for colon cancer. You should be sure to include plenty of fiber in your diet as well since a lack of fiber is another risk factor.
4. Treatment isn’t the same for everyone
Several treatments can eliminate cancerous cells in the colon, but not every case of colon cancer will respond to the same treatment regimen. Your physicians recommend treatments based on the stage of your cancer, your age, and overall health.
Whether you undergo radiation therapy, get chemotherapy, or undergo surgery for colon cancer, you can rest assured that the goal of treatment is ultimately to eliminate the cancer and any uncomfortable symptoms it causes.
5. An early diagnosis gives you a positive prognosis
Because cancer can leave its original area as it develops and grows over time, it’s essential that you don’t ignore any concerning symptoms. You should also be sure to follow our team’s recommendations for screening if you’re 50-75 years old, including fecal testing and colonoscopies.
Although colon cancer prognosis varies based on the stage of the cancer, all stages combined have an average five-year survival rate of 63%. Comparatively, localized colon cancer that has not yet spread has a 91% five-year survival rate.
No matter your risk, it’s always a good idea to consider making some healthy changes to your lifestyle that can help prevent colon cancer. To find out more about screenings and diagnostic tests, schedule an appointment by phone or online at Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division today.