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Colorectal Cancer: What You Need to Know

Cancer Care
Author name: Lee Health

Doctors and other experts are on a mission: They want you to know that one of the deadliest cancers is also the most preventable.

“There are about 50,000 people who die from colorectal cancer each year in the U.S.,” says Lee Health colorectal surgeon Janette Gaw, M.D. That means colon cancer has the second highest death rate of all cancers.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Lifestyle changes, tests, and education can ensure that you can ward off this deadly disease.

Get a Colonoscopy:

Unfortunately, colonoscopies have a bad reputation. The very idea of the exam makes many people uncomfortable or afraid.

But talk to your doctor, and you might even learn to laugh about it a little bit!

A doctor can certainly soothe your mind about the procedure, which many people only need to get once every 10 years.

Dr. Gaw recommends that screenings should begin at age 50, but patients should get a colonoscopy at a younger age if they have a family history of colon cancer.

The prep liquid can be pretty icky, but some doctors will allow you to split the dose into smaller portions or may even allow you to drink a low-volume, tasteless mixture. And don’t feel like you have to guzzle the mixture all at once—if you feel sick, take a break and chew some gum.

You can also dilute the mixture with a sports drink to help with electrolytes and taste.

OK, the bad part is next: You will probably be stuck in the bathroom for a long time after you drink the prep liquid so your colon can be thoroughly clean for the procedure. So grab your favorite reading material or browse something fun on your phone. Use hygiene wipes or ointments to help with irritation.

So now you are ready for the procedure – but remember you have sedation options to make you as comfortable as possible. Colonoscopies are hardly ever scary or painful!

Stop Smoking and Drinking

It’s that simple: If you avoid tobacco and alcohol then you drastically reduce your risk of cancer.

Fruit and Veggies are Key

One thing you can always be sure of: A healthier diet ALWAYS makes a difference. More fiber, fruits, and vegetables and less salt, processed fats, and red meat can give you a leg up in battling many diseases and conditions.

Get off the Couc:

Losing weight and being more active boosts your body’s immune system.

Symptoms and Treatment Options

Don’t ignore the symptoms of colon cancer:

  • Bloody stools
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unexplained weight loss or fatigue
  • Cramping in the lower stomach
  • Change in bowel habits

These things are not normal, so talk to your doctor immediately.

Remember, too, that patients who face colon cancer have a variety of treatment options based on the severity of the disease. In its earliest stage, colon cancer is highly treatable.

“That shows why it’s important to get regular screenings,” Dr. Gaw says. “Regular screenings save lives.”


For appointments with a Lee Health Gastroenterologist, visit our Gastroenterology page or call 239-343-6202.


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