President Obama proclaimed March Colo-rectal Cancer Awareness month noting it as the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Because early detection and treatment of the disease can go a long way in saving lives, public understand of it is key to its prevention.
Risk factors include people over the age of 50, those who smoke, who are overweight, are not physically active, drink alcohol in excess, eat a lot of red meat, and have a family history of the disease. Symptoms may include bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stool, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation, weight loss, fatigue and vomiting.
Colonoscopy, the screening test recommended by gastroenterologists at around age 50, examines the colon and removes precancerous polyps found during the procedure. It is estimated that screening could prevent half the deaths attributed to colon cancer each year. Those at high risk are urged to be tested earlier than age 50.
Colonoscopy is one of the Essential Health Benefits that is now free of charge on Affordable Health Care Compliant Health Care Policies as a preventative screening test.
Ways to keep your colon in optimal health include eating a fiber-rich diet (at least 25-35 grams a day, getting enough vitamin D (15-20 minutes of daily sun exposure), drinking plenty of water and exercising to increase blood flow and oxygen levels.