March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and, according to the American Cancer Society, the disease is both the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States.
The risk of developing colorectal cancer in a lifetime is about 1 in 19 for men; for women, it is about 1 in 20. More than 90 percent of cases are diagnosed in those over age 50.
Colorectal cancer develops from precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum, and occurs as a result of errors in the way cells grow and repair the lining of the colon.
Dr. Colin Bailey recommends the following steps to help prevent the disease:
Get Screened. Beginning at age 50, make a commitment to regular screenings for colorectal cancer. If you have a close relative who has suffered from colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, talk to your doctor about getting screened today.
There are several different types of screening tests that may be combined or used alone, including:
• High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test
• Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Eat Smart. Medical experts agree that one of the best ways to reduce your chances of developing colorectal cancer is to maintain a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Get Moving. Studies show that those who are physically active are 24 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who are not. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, several days per week, whenever possible.
Maintain a Healthy Weight. Also, keep in mind that studies have shown that your body type can influence your risk for developing colorectal cancer. Those with an "apple" shape and those carrying extra weight around the waist are at greatest risk.
Dr. Bailey is a Family Practice Physician on staff at River Parishes Hospital.