Most colorectal cancers are preventable. Getting routine colonoscopy screenings is the most effective way we currently know to prevent colorectal cancer. There are some diet and lifestyle changes you can make that may aid in prevention, but screening is by far your most effective tool.
How Does Colonoscopy Screening Help Prevent Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer tends to be a very slow growing cancer. And most colorectal cancer begins with tiny growths in the lining of the colon that are called polyps. Not all polyps will develop into cancer, but because some of them will, it’s best to
remove them. Removing polyps before they become cancerous has the effect of stopping cancer before it starts. During a colonoscopy procedure, most polyps are clearly visible, which makes it easy for your doctor to remove them. Once they are removed,
they can be tested to find out which type they are, which aids in diagnosis.
Sometimes, polyps are removed and there is still dysplasia where the polyps once were. Dysplasia is an abnormal
area of cell growth. It is a pre-cancerous condition. If dysplasia is present after polyps are removed, that marks an increased risk for colorectal cancer. If you have dysplasia, you may need to have screenings more frequently.
What Are the Screening Guidelines for Colonoscopies?
Generally healthy adults without a family history of colorectal cancer should have their first colonoscopy at age 45. If you have a family history, you should have your first
screening colonoscopy 10 years before the age at which your family member was diagnosed.
Learn more about screening guidelines and when you should have a colonoscopy.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes to Help Prevent Colorectal Cancer
While colonoscopy is the best, most important way to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer, there are some diet and lifestyle changes you can make that may help as well. You may be able to reduce your risk by:
- Making sure your diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and don’t consume too much saturated fat, red meat, or processed food. There are links between high fat, low fiber diets and colorectal cancer, so eating a balanced,
nutritious diet is important for colorectal health.
- Get plenty of exercise (at least 30 minutes per day). Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
- Get to and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a colorectal cancer risk factor, so making sure you’re at a healthy weight may reduce your risk.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. Anything more than moderate alcohol use can increase your risk. Ask your doctor what that means for you, but usually it means limiting alcohol to one drink per day for women and two for men.
- Get screened. We can’t stress this enough. Having colonoscopies when recommended really can make a difference.
Don’t wait. If you are over age 45, have a family history of colorectal cancer, or you have any of the signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer,
call your doctor today, and ask for a referral for a colonoscopy.