As we reflect on the victories and memories of 2017, we may also consider the areas where we fell short. If you didn’t quite achieve the goals you set last year, you’re not alone. Nearly 80% of all people who make a New Year’s Resolution stop working on that resolution by February. But this year can be different! We are challenging you to focus on your gut health in 2018 which, if you are at least 50 years old, includes scheduling a colonoscopy. While this may seem like a strange goal, it is one that could save your life. Colorectal cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Research also indicates that 60% of all deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented through regular screenings. As you determine to be healthier this year, it’s important to understand the risks of colon cancer and the best ways to prevent it.
What Are The Risk Factors?
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include a personal history of colorectal polyps, previous diagnosis of inflammatory intestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, and a family history of colon cancer. Surprisingly, 25% of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer have a family history. Lifestyle is another factor that puts you at risk for colorectal cancer. Those that lead a sedentary lifestyle, have diabetes, are obese, consume a diet low in fiber and high in fat, heavily drink alcohol, or smoke are all at a higher risk of diagnosis for colorectal cancer. Typically doctors recommend that you should schedule your first colonoscopy at age 50 because those over the age of 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. However, the diagnosis for adults under the age of 50 is rising. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or have one or more of the risk factors, you should visit with Dr. Sameer Islam about when to schedule your first colonoscopy, even if you are under the age of 50.
Why Is A Colonoscopy Important?
In 2017, doctors estimated that they would see 35,430 new cases of colorectal cancer and 50,260 deaths from colorectal cancer. However, one in three people are not up to date on their screening even though it has the potential to save lives. Typically, you will experience little to no symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer. But cancer can be easily detected in the early stages with a colonoscopy. The goal in a colonoscopy is to locate growths in the lining of the colon—polyps—that can eventually become cancerous. During this procedure, which takes about half an hour, a doctor inserts a small flexible tube into the colon. At the end of the tube is a camera that scans the lining of the colon to determine any cancerous or precancerous polyps. If a colonoscopy scan indicates an early stage of cancer, the early detection can prevent a fatality. If screenings are done on a regular basis, a colonoscopy can detect polyps before they become cancer, sparing you and your family the physical and emotional strain of cancer treatments.
Is Prevention Possible?
While regular screening is the best way to prevent cancer from spreading and even stopping the potential for death by colon cancer, there are adjustments you can make to your lifestyle in order to lower your overall risk. Your New Year’s resolution may already include “eat right” or “exercise regularly.” Making these adjustments and more will not only give you a healthier lifestyle, but a healthier colon. Be sure that your diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rich in vitamins and minerals. If you choose to drink, limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Exercise for 30 minutes each day and maintain a healthy weight. Starting these habits can lower your risk for colon cancer and help you live the healthy life you long for.
If you have any questions or concerns about your risk for colorectal cancer, want an honest analysis about your GI health, or need to schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy, contact your healthcare provider. Cheers to making 2018 the best—and healthiest—year yet!
Sameer Islam, MD is a board-certified Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist practicing at Southwest Gastroenterology in Lubbock, Texas. For an appointment feel free to contact his office at (806)-761-0747. You can get more information from his webpage (www.sameerislam.com) where you can also subscribe to his monthly newsletter. He also has a weekly Facebook Live show on Wednesdays, 8:30 PM CST.