Colon cancer is common and deadly. In the UK there are 41,582 cancer cases each year and 13% of those are colon cancer. The good news is that 57% of adult bowel cancer patients (56% of men and 57% of women) diagnosed in 2010-2011 in England and Wales are predicted to survive ten or more years
54% of bowel cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors with the remaining 46% being attributed to being inherited and familial causes.
Lifestyle factors associated with colon cancer:
Inherited and “familial” factors that influence colon cancer:
If you have a first-degree relative (a parent, child or sibling) who has colon cancer, your risk of colon cancer is almost double that of the general population. The most common types of familial colon cancer include Familial adenomatous polyposis(FAP) and Lynch Syndrome. These conditions make up 5% of the causes of colon cancer.
Other risk factors for colon cancer include those with inflammatory bowel disease such as Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Low Vitamin D has also been associated with an increased risk.
Protective factors that may decrease your risk of colon cancer include regular physical activity, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and a high-fiber diet. Omega 3 fish oil has also been associated with a decrease risk of colon cancer. Dietary folic acid, Vitamin B6, calcium and garlic may also provide some protection. Aspirin and NSAID’s may also protect against polyps of the colon as well as colon cancer.
Colon cancer screening saves lives.
Consistent and regular screening will reduce your risk of developing colon cancer up to 90%. If colon cancer is detected early, the chance of a successful treatment and long-term survival is substantial.
In the early stages of colon cancer, you may not experience any symptoms. However if you experience any of these symptoms you should alert your health care provider:
The Dreaded Prep
In order for the gastroenterologist to see your entire colon, it must be completely clean, and no stool can be present. For best results, you should follow a 24-hour liquid diet. If the prep is not done correctly, it can be challenging to get an adequate colonoscopy (and to reassure you that there are no polyps or tumors present).
The colonoscopy is typically done in an outpatient setting with mild sedation. A thin tube is passed through your colon as the doctor looks onto a television screen evaluating its entirety. The procedure takes less than an hour and complications are rare.
Screening guidelines for colonoscopy:
Other less comprehensive options for screening tests include:
Consult with your health care provider for further information relating to your own medical history and colon cancer risks.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!