Thursday, December 11, 2014

Colon Cancer Prevention and Screening

by M. J. Joachim

Colon cancer is a silent killer, rarely diagnosed in its early stages. Screening is important, but not as important as being aware of your own physical body. You know yourself better than any doctor, and it is up to you to persist in getting tested and treated when you have warning signs that something is wrong. Just like women who are constantly encouraged to do self breast exams to avoid getting breast cancer, you must take note of your own personal bathroom habits and seek testing and treatment when things just aren't right.

I personally avoided getting colon cancer several years ago, after a few months of testing for other things. If I hadn't been so persistent, I might have never gone through the colonoscopy that found two precancerous polyps in my large intestine. But there they were, mutating and changing, while we were looking for other causes to my pain and symptoms. At the time of their removal, the doctor noted that they looked completely benign. A few days later, I received the call that they were precancerous and I was very lucky to have found them in time.

So what is the difference between benign, precancerous, and cancerous? How does it affect your symptoms? What do you need to do to decrease your own colon cancer chances? Benign polyps are not threatening in any way. They are extra tissue that causes no real health risks or problems. Precancerous polyps are tissue that is changing and mutating into what could become cancer if not removed. Polyps containing cells that have mutated into cancer can cause a lot of problems, especially if the cells multiply and invade other parts of the body.

My symptoms were easy to ignore and deny, as is the case with most people at risk of getting colon cancer. It started out as a persistent belly ache, the kind that tells you you're hungry, but when you eat, you feel like you want to get sick. As my eating habits changed, so did my bathroom habits. This was the reason I used to explain away my irritated colon for a couple of months. Still, something wasn't quite right, and I knew I needed to get thoroughly checked out.

I went to my doctor to discuss all of my symptoms. Honestly, I thought it might be a kidney stone that couldn't pass. The tests came back negative for kidney stones, but my pain and eating discomfort persisted. More tests were given, all of which came back negative too. I continued working with my doctor, asking lots of questions, and tracking symptoms. In the process, I learned more about my physical body than I was prepared to accept, but hey, it was worth it in the long run, right?

One of the easiest ways to decrease your chances of getting colon cancer is to eat a high fiber diet. This includes lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. A word of caution is in order though. While bran muffins contain a lot of fiber, depending on the recipe, you may be minimizing their effect, especially if they are loaded with unnecessary fats and sugars. It is better to eat natural, raw foods as opposed to prepared, processed foods when increasing your fiber intake.

Another way to decrease colon cancer is to go for regular health screenings. Hemoccult tests are done for this purpose. It's a simple three day process in which you take a chemically treated card home and lightly paste a small bit of personal waste in tiny windows for each day. The lab then tests the card for any signs of blood or abnormalities that indicate a need for follow-up care and treatment.

The easiest way to decrease your own colon cancer chances is to know your body and seek medical attention when things just aren't right. More often than not, it will be an easy fix. On those rare occasions when it's not, you'll be better off dealing with the problem in the earliest possible stages.

I hope this article inspires you to listen to your body and take good care of yourself. Health is something we often take for granted, until something goes wrong. Here’s to staying healthy everyone. Thanks so much for visiting, commenting and sharing my posts.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: National Cancer Institute, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, PD-US