It’s very easy as a chronic illness/pain warrior to forget about our need for screening tests for serious, yet treatable, illnesses. We may be so overwhelmed with the health problems we have that we don’t have the band width to go looking for new ones. However, checking for colorectal cancers (CRC) is vitally important. Colonoscopy screening has a great ability to decrease your risk of getting this type of cancer.
According to “Colorectal cancer in the world: incidence, mortality and risk factors” colorectal cancers (CRC) are the third leading cause of cancer world wide, and are the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.
Multiple studies over the years have shown that certain behaviors increase our risk of getting CRC. Since these risk factors are under our control, when we combine screening for CRC, and prevention we greatly reduce our risk of getting these types of cancer.
Screening colonoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor to look at the inside of the colon with a thin flexible tube. The tube has a little camera that allows the doctor to see the health of the lining of the intestines.
If any little growths, called polyps, are found they can be removed easily right then. This is important because CRC’s develop from those little polyps. Those polyps grow slowly. So if you have a clear screening colonoscopy at your first screening, in most cases, you won’t need to have it done again for ten years.
Before the colonoscopy is done, you will need to do a “bowel prep” to clean out your intestines, so the doctor can see clearly. This is the worst part of the test. It usually requires drinking a large quantity of yucky tasting medicine, and then spending hours in the bathroom. You also cannot eat anything except clear liquids the day before your test until the test is over.
For the actual test they give you medicine to put you to sleep, so you feel nothing. Afterwards, you will have gas pains due to the air they pumped into your colon to make it easier for the doctor to see. Your body is pretty good at getting rid of the air. You can read more about a colonoscopy here: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/special-coverage/text7thingstoknow.html
Tests For Blood In Your Stool
Another helpful screening tool to use in between your colonoscopy checks, is a simple test that checks for blood in your stool. There are a variety of these tests on the market, and your doctor can recommend how often to use them. They involve testing a stool specimen for hidden blood. These are useful because, cancerous growths can cause blood to show up in your stool long before you can see any blood.
However, if you suddenly have bright red blood or black tarry stools, see your doctor ASAP. Other conditions besides cancer can cause bleeding, so don’t assume you have cancer until you get checked. You can read about other signs and symptoms of colon cancer here.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Besides doing your screenings as recommended by your doctor, there are things you can do to lessen your chance of getting CRC.
1. Add more fruits, vegetables, and fiber to your diet.
2. Stop smoking.
3. Decrease your alcohol consumption.
4. Decrease the amount of red meat and processed meats in your diet.
5. Increase your physical activity and maintain a normal weight.
These are the current prevention guidelines. Please check with your healthcare provider about changing your diet, and activity levels, because not everyone is able to do these things. If you need help quitting smoking, your doctor has many resources today to help you quit.
The article Colorectal Cancer in the World, has much more in depth information from actual studies about CRC. It’s a great resource if you desire more details.
Also, the American Cancer Society has an infographic about colorectal cancer screening guidelines: https://www.cancer.org/research/infographics-gallery/colorectal-cancer-screening-guideline-for-men-and-women-at-average-risk.html If you have certain medical conditions, and /or a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need more frequent screenings.
This subject is currently on my mind, because I’m having a screening colonoscopy this week. My first one was 10 years ago. Even though I’m not looking forward to it, I know that it’s important for my future health.
If anyone wants some ideas for clear liquid options that are more healthy than Koolaid, I’m happy to share what I’m currently drinking.
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Please make the time to get your colon health screenings done. Till next time, Kathy