Most of us work hard to be healthy: we aim for a balanced diet, exercise, and get mammograms or screening tests for prostate cancer. Unfortunately, whether because of shyness or negligence, people tend not to protect their behinds.
Just one statistic should be enough to convince you to protect yourself from this disease, which is the second highest cause of death from cancer in Canada: 95 percent of colo-rectal cancer cases are preventable through screening tests. One in 14 Canadians will be diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer at some time in their life, although they will likely never undergo the screening tests that could have helped them head it off.
It is especially important not to wait for problems to occur before taking action, as this cancer is a silent killer. When symptoms appear (rectal bleeding, bloody or otherwise unusual feces, diarrhea and/or constipation, and unexplainable weight loss), the cancer may already have reached an advanced stage and be difficult to treat.
Are you at risk?
There is still a widely held belief that colo-rectal cancer is an old person’s illness. In fact, men and women past the age of 50 are moderately at risk of developing this cancer and should undergo a screening test (e.g. a colonoscopy). The risk increases if you have a family history of cancer of the colon, intestine, or rectum or if you have polyps, Crohn’s disease, or certain other cancers. Also at risk are people who eat a lot of red or processed meats or who are obese, sedentary, smoke, or drink a lot of alcohol.
If you are in a higher risk category, raise the subject with your doctor and ask for an in-depth screening test.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical exercise, a healthy weight, moderate alcohol consumption, and no smoking. Eat 5 to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, limit your intake of animal fats, and eat less red or processed meats.