Colon Cancer

At least two million Americans suffer from colon-related diseases. About 112,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer annually; the disease causes more than 55,000 U.S. deaths each year.

Many experts believe that the average person has 5 to 20 pounds of accumulated waste matter in their colon. A blocked colon is a perfect breeding ground for parasites. Also, toxins accumulate in the digestive tract and this leads to poor digestion along with colon build up and other complications. This, in turn, leads to health problems that sometimes result in serious disease.

Definition

The digestive system removes and processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body.

  • The colon, or large intestine, is part of the digestive system and is about 5-6 feet long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. A muscular, hollow tube, the colon is at the end of the digestive tract where the body makes and stores stool.
  • Most cases of colon cancer begin as small, noncancerous clumps of cells. Usually, polyps that are smaller than a pea aren't harmful, but larger polyps could become cancer or may already be cancer.

Signs & Symptoms

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms do appear, they will likely vary, depending on the cancer's size and location in the large intestine.

  • Signs and symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, persistent cramping, gas, or abdominal pain.

Risk Factors

  • About 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50.
  • Sedentary lifestyle - When you're inactive, waste stays in your colon longer.
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking and alcohol
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease

Prevention

Physicians recommend that people age 50 and older have a colonoscopy every three to 10 years, depending on their personal risk factors. Regular screening tests can identify polyps before they become cancerous.

  • The recommended daily fiber intake is 20 to 35 grams, but the average American intake is only 10 to 15 grams per day. Always increase fluids when you increase fiber. Add both soluble (bran, fruit, vegetables) and insoluble fiber (cereals, whole grains) from a variety of sources.
  • A Western type of diet (high intakes of meat, fat, refined grains, and dessert) affects insulin levels and insulin-like growth factors that help promote cancer's growth and metastases. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who eat diets high in red meat and processed meats.
  • Vitamins and minerals linked to a lower incidence of colon cancer include vitamin B6, calcium, folic acid, and magnesium.
  • New research suggests that colon cancer patients who eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, poultry, and fish can significantly lower the risk of their cancer returning.
     

Sources

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Cancer Institute, Medical News Today, Mayo Clinic, HealthDay, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, Colon Therapists Network, Womens Health Network, Ezinearticles, and Washington and Shady Grove Adventist Hospitals. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.

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