Screenings and healthy lifestyle habits help prevent colorectal cancer

Your Health Matters

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. It’s as common in women as it is in men. With certain types of screening, this cancer can be prevented by removing polyps (grape-like growths on the wall of the intestine) before they become cancerous.

With so many things to pay attention to in our lives and with our heath, time files! Don’t let your time to begin screening fly by you.

“If you’re at average risk for colorectal cancer, start getting screened at age 45,” said Dr. Kiran Khosa, gastroenterologist, Meritus Digestive Health Specialists.

If you’re at higher risk, you may need to start regular screening at an earlier age and be screened more often. If you’re older than 75, ask your doctor if you should continue to be screened.

“The best time to get screened is before you have any symptoms,” Dr. Khosa said.

There are many factors that can increase the risk for colorectal cancer. This includes people age 50 and older, smoking, overweight or obesity, inactivity, people who drink alcohol in excess, especially men. Additionally, consumption of a lot of red meat (such as beef, pork, or lamb) or processed meat (such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, or cold cuts) increases the risk for these types of cancers.

“The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce your risk for developing colorectal cancer. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes, at least five days a week. Maintain a healthy weight. Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit. Have no more than one alcoholic drink per day if you’re a woman or two if you’re a man. Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help you get and stay healthy. Eat less red meat and cut out processed meat,” Dr. Khosa said.

If you are 45 or older and missed your colonoscopy during the pandemic or are concerned about the wait time to get your procedure on the calendar, Dr. Khosa recommends discussing the option of other tests for colorectal cancer screening – the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or

ColoGuard - with your health care provider.

Both FIT and ColoGuard are noninvasive and can be done from the comfort of home. Each allows you to collect a small stool sample that can then be tested to look for hidden, invisible signs that could suggest cancer. There are no special diets or prep for the tests and they could provide evidence for you having a colonoscopy sooner than later.

“The colonoscopy remains the ‘gold standard’ for colon cancer screenings, but a conversation about other testing methods could be vital to get a person back on schedule and keep concerns at bay,” Dr. Khosa said.

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