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Living Well: Be aware of colorectal cancer
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March awareness continues. Last week, I discussed multiple-sclerosis awareness, and this week I will discuss colorectal-cancer awareness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States of cancers that affect both men and women, and the third-most common cancer in men and in women. But an early diagnosis often can lead to a complete cure.
Almost all colon cancers start in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer. You are considered to be at a high risk of getting colon cancer if you are older than 60, are African-American or eastern-European descent, eat a  lot of red or processed meats, have colorectal polyps, have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), have a family history of colon cancer, and have a personal history of breast cancer.
Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include: lack of regular physical activity; low fruit and vegetable intake; a low fiber, high-fat diet; overweight and obesity; alcohol consumption and tobacco use.
I recommend starting by changing your eating habits, especially if you eat a lot of red meat. Try only eating two to three servings of red meat a month. Vary your protein options with fish, chicken, pork and vegan sources such as tofu.
Also, get active. Whether it is as simple as walking or biking, or by joining a fitness class, you must become physically active.
Many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms, but the following symptoms may indicate colon cancer: abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen, blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation or other change in bowel habits, narrow stools, and weight loss with no known reason. Early detection is key. With screening, colon cancer can be detected before symptoms develop. This is when the cancer is most curable. A colonoscopy can see the entire colon and is the best screening test for colon cancer.
Blood tests also are used as detection. The CDC recommends screening soon after turning 50 years of age and continuing to do so at regular intervals. Earlier screening may be necessary if you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms.
Preventative measures include: increased awareness such as this and screening by colonoscopy. Changing your diet and lifestyle are important. As with many of the diseases we face, eating a healthy diet always tops the list for prevention and maintenance. Medical research suggests that low-fat and high-fiber diets may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
I recommend performing a cleanse or detox once every quarter. There are several over-the-counter methods you can use or my preferred method: a high fiber diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Be sure when choosing fiber options, you get a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Both pass through your system undigested. Soluble fiber mixes with liquid and forms a gel acting like a sponge, while insoluble fiber passes through our intestines largely intact. It acts like a shovel pushing all the “junk” out.
If you are not having regular bowel movements, you may need to seek a stronger cleanse in order to scrape your intestinal walls clean of the built up debris. Most cleanses on the market contain fiber in their ingredient lists. Just remember, when consuming large amounts of fiber, you must also consume large amounts of water in order to flush out the fiber and debris. If not, you will end up feeling extremely uncomfortable and bloated.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from signs or symptoms in relation to colorectal cancer, please contact your health-care provider. If you have any questions about seeking the proper high-fiber diet and/or a physical fitness plan, then please contact me at 478-542-0454. I specialize in diets for “special populations” such as Crohn’s, diabetes, pregnancy, etc. Help keep the awareness alive by sharing this information with your family and friends.

Ward is a personal fitness trainer and nutrition counselor in Richmond Hill. For specific advice, call 478-542-0454.

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