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Be Proactive to Prevent Colon Cancer

It has been five years since my last colonoscopy, and the time has come for me to schedule my next colorectal screening. Each year during March, I think about it. Not simply because it is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but because I have at least one serious risk factor that makes me more vulnerable: Heredity.

My maternal Grandfather had colon cancer, and by the time it was diagnosed, it had progressed to the point that surgery to remove a large section of his bowel and the addition of a colostomy bag were his only options.

I contemplated my Grandfather’s cancer journey while waiting for a dear friend to finish her last radiation treatment for a different form of cancer at our local specialist, Moffitt Cancer Center. I realize that the best thing I can do is be proactive to prevent colon cancer.

For my Grandfather, it all started with symptoms he was experiencing that led him to see his doctor.

Seniors and aging adults should be aware of symptoms that may be indicative of a gastrointestinal condition like colon cancer:

  • Changes in Stool – Pay attention to your bowel movements (BMs) and changes in your stool:
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Narrowing of feces
  • Dark stool
  • Blood in stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Feeling a need to have a BM, but no relief after doing so
  • Cramping or Abdominal Pain
  • Unintended Weight Loss
  • Weakness & Fatigue

If you notice any of the above symptoms do not hesitate to contact your doctor immediately!

I have no idea how long my Grandfather experienced symptoms that led him to see his doctor and schedule a colon cancer screening, but the takeaway is it wasn’t soon enough to prevent a major surgery that impacted his quality of life.

Moffitt says, “For most people, it is recommended that regular colon cancer screening begins at age 45. However, those who are considered to be at a higher risk of developing colon cancer should consider starting routine screenings at a younger age, as well as having them conducted more often. Higher-risk individuals are those who are colon cancer survivors, have a family history of colon cancer, or have been diagnosed with:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Adenomatous polyposis

Aside from these physical risk factors, other risk factors include:

  • Genetic Risks – Although 5-10% of all cancers are related to genetics, nearly 50% of colon cancers under the age of 50 are a direct result of heredity. In the case of seniors ages 65+, genetic factors may not be as clear, but the National Institutes for Health (NIH) National Library of Medicine reports, “The greatest burden from colorectal cancer falls on the elderly, with nearly 70% of cases diagnosed in those older than age 65 and 40% diagnosed in those over 75 years of age. As a result, approximately 75% of colorectal cancer deaths occur in people older than 65 years of age.”
  • Lifestyle Risks – Smoking, alcohol use, consumption of red meats and processed foods, and obesity are considered lifestyle risks that may increase the likelihood of colon cancer.

Understanding your risk factors and making good choices can truly make a positive difference in colon cancer prevention.

Get Screened!

I believe my Grandfather would have benefited from being screened much sooner than he was, but at least when he did have a colonoscopy, the doctors were able to detect and treat his colon cancer.

Moffitt makes colon cancer screening easy.

“Colon cancer screening at Moffitt Cancer Center consists of many simple, virtually risk-free options for residents of Clearwater, Florida who want to be proactive about their colon health. Whether in the form of a colonoscopy or a highly sensitive blood test, participating in regular colon cancer screening can lead to the early detection of precancerous and cancerous abnormal tissue clusters called polyps. The earlier the cancer is detected, the more treatment options a patient has available, increasing the likelihood of achieving a favorable outcome and higher quality of life,” the experts explain.

My Grandfather did not die of colon cancer, but he did live with that colostomy bag for the remainder of his life. By being proactive and staying on track with colon cancer screening every 5 years, or as recommended by my doctor, I hope to remain cancer-free! =

If questionable polyps are detected, and a colon cancer diagnosis is revealed, at least I know that early detection should result in more desirable treatment options and a more favorable prognosis.

I strongly encourage seniors to talk to their doctor about their risk factors or any symptoms they are experiencing and schedule a colon cancer screening or colonoscopy sooner rather than later.

A compassionate Home Helpers® caregiver can help you or a special senior you love with senior care services in the Clearwater area that include but are not limited to transportation assistance to doctor appointments and health screenings, personal care like bathing, dressing or toileting, nutritious meal planning and preparation, and recuperative care following surgery. I am available to schedule a FREE Consultation at your convenience so I can assess specific needs and match the perfect caregiver to make life easier.

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Moffitt Cancer Center

National Library of Medicine