Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Prevent Colon Cancer

Do you have a family history of cancer, especially colon cancer?  While that increases your risk of developing colon cancer, there is no reason to believe that it is inevitable that you will get it, too.  The vast majority of people can avoid this horrible disease.  Approximately 90% or more of all colon cancers can be avoided with proper screening and lifestyle changes.  In other words, Baby Boomers and other retirees do not have to accept the inevitably of developing this cancer, even if they have a family history of it.

Unfortunately, far too many people fail to take the necessary steps to prevent colon cancer. Here's what you need to know.

Get a Colonoscopy

According to a number of studies, most people can dramatically reduce or even completely eliminate their colon cancer risk, simply by getting colonoscopies starting at age 50.  They may want to start getting them sooner in some cases, especially if they have a personal or family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

Colonoscopies are more than a screening test.  During the exam, the physician is able to remove precancerous polyps.  Since these polyps are usually slow growing, removing them dramatically reduces your odds of developing this cancer in the following five to ten years.  By then, it will be time for another colonoscopy.

Thanks to insurance changes that were made under the Affordable Care Act, this life-changing procedure is either free or very low cost under most insurance plans.  This is a money-saving development for both insurance companies and Medicare.  Very simply, it is less expensive to administer a series of colonoscopies than it is to do surgery and chemo on someone after they have developed colon cancer.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Colon Cancer

Prior to your first colonoscopy, and in between the ones you have later in life, there are a few simple lifestyle changes you can make that will also lower your colon cancer risk.  If you make these changes, combined with colonoscopies, it is very unlikely that you will develop this potentially fatal disease.

Here are some practical changes that could make a significant difference in your overall health, including your colon cancer risk:

1. Lose weight.  Obesity raises your risk of developing several types of cancer, including colon cancer.

2.  Enjoy your morning coffee.  According to a National Cancer Institute study done over 15 years, drinking four or more cups of coffee a day can lower your colon cancer risk.

3.  Take a multi-vitamin or combination of vitamins that contain 400 mcg. of folic acid and 1000 IU of Vitamin D.  Both have been shown to cut your colon cancer risk.

4.  Eat a healthy diet that includes onions and curcumin (the yellow pigment in the spice, turmeric). The right diet can also reduce your odds of developing colon cancer.

5.  Stop smoking and drink only moderate amounts of alcohol.  Smokers and heavy drinkers have a higher rate than normal of colon cancer, as well as other health issues.

Remember: These are steps you should take in addition to regular colonoscopies, not instead of them. Only colonoscopies can virtually eliminate the colon cancer risk for the majority of adults.

For more information on colon cancer:

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer/

http://www.ucirvinehealth.org/medical-services/colorectal-disease

For other health and retirement information, check out the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article.  They contain links to hundreds of other articles on health, finances, family relations and where to retire.

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Photo credit: morguefile.com

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