Wellness Matters

6 Ways to Keep Your Colon Healthy and Cancer-Free

March 17, 2017

Each year, more than 4,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer in North Carolina. Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, also known as the colon. Rectal cancer is cancer in the last few inches of the colon. Together, they are referred to as colorectal cancers.

In most cases, small polyps form that, over time, become cancerous. These polyps have few, if any, symptoms. Therefore, doctors recommend screening tests to help prevent colon cancer. The screenings identify any polyps, and doctors can remove them before they become cancerous. Here are six ways to keep your colon healthy and cancer-free:
African-American couple maintain colon health
  1. Regular testing. The most common test for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. This is when the entire colon is viewed using a flexible camera while the patient is under anesthesia. Any polyps that are found can be immediately and safely removed. Other tests include a sigmoidoscopy, where just the lower colon is examined, and fecal tests. 
  2. Eat a colon-healthy diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables and whole grain fiber. Fruits and veggies are high in antioxidants, while fiber promotes regular bowel movements. 
  3. Stop eating red meats and processed foods. Skip the steak and sausage. Red meats and processed meats are high in saturated fat and have been linked to colon cancer. Eat lean proteins such as beans, poultry and fish. 
  4. Body Mass Index is important. People who are obese are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer. 
  5. Exercise. Physically active people have a 24 percent lower risk of colon cancer than those who are not. 
  6. Limit alcohol. Alcohol is a known risk factor for colon cancer. Drinking increases the workload on the liver, which causes more toxins to pass through the colon. 
  7. Stop smoking. Smoking is a well-known cause of lung cancer, but is also linked to other cancers, including colon cancer. 

African-Americans have the highest colorectal cancer rate of all racial groups in the United States. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you are also at higher risk. It is crucial that you get a regular colonoscopy if you fall into either of these groups.

According to National Cancer Institute data, the relative five-year survival rate for stage I colon cancer is 92 percent, compared to an 11 percent survival rate for stage IV, which clearly indicates that early screening, diagnosis and treatment are the key.


About the Author

Susan Coward, RN, BSN is a gastrointestinal oncology nurse navigator at the Cone Health Cancer Center 

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