Over the years, an increasing amount of attention has been placed on the issue of colon cancer, which is known for a relatively high number of cases and deaths. In the United States, colorectal cancers are seen as the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths, beaten only by cancer of the lung. Since the early signs of colon cancer are nearly undetectable, the chances for beating this type of cancer are pretty low. Today, the public is encouraged to take a more active role in their cancer detection, as the word is spreading on how regular screenings, lifestyle changes, and other prevention measures will reduce the overall risk of developing this deadly disease.
What is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is often bulked with the term of colorectal cancer, which includes cancer of the bowel. The disease occurs when cancerous growths are found in the colon (large intestine), rectum, and appendix . Each year, more than 655,000 deaths are attributed to this type of cancer, affecting individuals situated across the globe.
Most colon cancer cases start as a small, noncancerous (benign) collection of cells (referred to adenomatous polyps), and when left untreated â€“ become cancerous. Since the polyps are small and start out in small numbers, detection is pretty hard. Over time, signs and symptoms of the cancer may appear, but often, the progression has reached disturbing levels of internal destruction and detection tends to come too late. An individual with colon cancer may suffer from a change in bowel habits, bloody and narrow stools, persistent cramping, and gas or abdominal pain . Unexplained weight loss may also accompany the disease.
The Negative Effects of Colon Cancer
When the diagnosis of any cancer enters the life of a patient, the challenge of coping with the reality is quite hard. Colon cancer is especially stressful because it is often detected in the late stages, which means the chances of recovery are pretty slim. The side effects that accommodate both the disease and possible treatment options are also difficult to deal with, as both short-term and long-term pain and tenderness, and temporary constipation or diarrhea is quite common.
A patient often chooses to undergo intense treatment to fight against the cancer, which includes the draining processes of radiation, chemotherapy, and colon cancer surgery. With colon cancer surgery, many patients fear the use of a colostomy bag, which is attached to the front of the body in order to allow bowel movement to take place after the operation.
Some patients face embarrassment and low self-esteem regarding such practices, as well as common responses to treatment, such as loss of hair and weight. Depression often accompanies the journey through colon cancer, including feelings of despair, hopelessness, and isolation. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, all of these emotions may intensify, as the fear of death increases.
Colon cancer is not only hard on the patient, but also on loved ones, who wish the best for their family member dealing with such a difficult time. Cancer treatments are also especially demanding on the finances, and when one is no longer able to administer self-care, the costs of hospice assistance and nursing homes create even more problems on the patient and their family. Many current insurance companies barely cover the bulk of medical care, hospital, and home care expenses attached to the disease.
Colon Cancer Risk Factors
While colon and rectal cancers may strike at any age, about 90% of people who develop the disease are older than 50 years old. Those who face a higher risk for the cancer include people with inflammatory intestinal conditions (such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease); a family history regarding colon cancer; poor diet; an inactive lifestyle; diabetes; smoking habits; heavy use of alcohol; and a personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
How to Prevent Colon Cancer
In recent years, more and more people have become familiar with the threat of colon cancer, as an increase in public awareness has portrayed regular checkups, routine screening, and education as some of the best ways to prevent colon cancer. Common colon cancer prevention methods include:
a) Regular Screenings:
Many doctors promote regular screenings for colon cancer as one of the best ways to prevent the disease. Just one test or a combination of two may be used during a colon screening, where a doctor may check the stool for blood (occult blood test); order an X-ray of the colon after administering an enema consisting of a white, chalky substance that outlines the colon (barium x-ray); or perform a colonoscopy, which takes a look into the inside of the rectum and colon with the use of a lighted scope .
b) Dietary Needs:
Consuming a high amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a great way to deliver an ample amount of the much-needed vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that help prevent colon cancer. It is recommended to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, as well as vary your dietary selections.
c) Limit Your Fat Intake:
Those who follow a diet filled with high-fat sources of food face a higher chance of developing colorectal cancer. It is important to limit the amount of fat in your diet, paying special attention to the saturated fat content in the foods you consume. Common high-fat foods to be on the lookout for include milk, cheese, ice cream, and items made with coconut and palm oils.
d) Vitamins and Minerals:
Colon cancer prevention also includes getting the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals into your diet. This includes selections, such as calcium, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and vitamin B-9. There are also plenty of food choices that will help you reach your dietary goals with a pleasing approach, such as delicious bananas and refreshing orange juice.
A 2006 study conducted in Sweden revealed that women who received a high amount of magnesium in their diet also showed the lowest risk of colon cancer. Magnesium is known to come in supplements, such as tablets (250 to 500 mg) and can also be found in whole grains, nuts, as well as green, leafy vegetable, such as kale .
f) Folic Acid:
Researchers have found that folic acid is a great prevention supplement against cancer, especially of the colon, cervix, and breast. Recent studies have shown that patients with low folic acid levels are more likely to get colon cancer than not. A supply of 400mcg tablets is easily available as an over-the-counter supplement.
g) Vitamin D:
Recent studies suggest that the higher amount of vitamin D in a diet, the lower the risk of developing colon cancer. Taking a vitamin D supplement (200 to 600 IU tablets) will also help.
h) Limit Alcohol Consumption:
It is recommended to limit the amount of alcohol you consume, where high alcohol consumption is known to increase the risk of colon cancer.
i) Quite Smoking:
It is a known fact that smoking can increase the risk of not only colorectal cancer, but other forms of the disease.
j) Hormone Replacement Therapy :
Women who have passed the stage of menopause have been known to decrease their risk of colon cancer by embracing hormone therapy (HT). It is important to weigh the pros and cons of this type of treatment because there are serious side effects and additional health risks that may arise with use.
k) Additional Cancer Prevention Supplements:
To prevent colon cancer, there are a variety of supplements to consider that come in a wide-range of choices (softgels, tablets, capsules, food items, and tea). To get an idea of some of the selections you may mull over, the following approaches are suggested: garlic (2 to 4 chopped cloves that are fresh and raw); lycopene (five servings or more of tomato-based products, such as tomato sauce or juice); melatonin (10 mg tablets per day); selenium (100 to 200 mcg tablets); vitamin (3,000 IU daily tablets or capsules); and vitamin E (400 IU daily tablets) .
l) Common Colon and Bowel Ailments:
It is important to familiarize yourself with the common symptoms associated with the many medical dilemmas that affect the colon and the bowels. Some of these conditions and diseases increase the chances of colon cancer and is important to get immediate treatment if they should arise. Targeted ailments to research include: inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); ulcerative colitis; and Crohn’s disease . Knowing the above ailments are also important because some colon cases have been misdiagnosed as some of these medical concerns.
Some research suggests that taking one aspirin per day may lead to a 50 to 50% decrease in the risk of developing digestive tumors .
 The Mayo Clinic Plan: 10 Essential Steps to a Better Body & Healthier Life (pg. 143)
 The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vitamins and Minerals (Third Edition; pgs. 228; 113-114)
 Solve It With Supplements by Robert Schulman (pg. 363)
 50 Ways to Prevent Colon Cancer by M. Sara Rosenthal (pgs. 9 â€“13; 79)