Colon Health Awareness Is Important! Here’s How You Can Stay Healthy
March 31, 2021
March is National Cancer Colorectal Awareness Month, a great time for learning about the importance of regular screening and taking other steps to keep your colon healthy.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. They say that risk increases with age. That’s why everyone should start getting regular screenings, including colonoscopies which are a routine and painless procedure, beginning at age 50. Getting a regular screening for colorectal cancer is just one way you can stay healthy.
How to keep your colon healthy
There are steps you can take now to better the health of your colon. This can decrease your chances of getting colorectal cancer when you get older. Preventive measures include:
Staying active: Consistent physical activity lowers the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women. It’s important to limit your time sitting and lying down to help lower your risk. Increase the amount of physical activity you do in your daily routine and it will make you healthier in the long run.
Diet: According to the American Cancer Society, diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains lower colorectal cancer risk. They recommend cutting down on red and processed meats as well.
Cut out smoking and alcohol consumption: Increased alcohol intake, especially among men can lead to a higher risk of colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink have no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. They recommend cutting out smoking altogether. Long-term smoking is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer as well as many other cancers and health problems.
Get regular colorectal cancer screenings: This is one of the most powerful tools for preventing colorectal cancer. If you are age 50 or older, then you should start getting screenings for colorectal cancer.
When to get colorectal cancer screenings
From the time the first abnormal cells start to grow into polyps, it usually takes about 10 to 15 years for them to develop into colorectal cancer. With regular colorectal screenings, most polyps can be found and removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. That’s why screenings are recommended for those 50 and older, and also for those that have a history of colorectal cancer in their family. They have a higher chance of developing it in the future because of their family history.
If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, then you need to consult with your doctor. They can tell you the best time for you to start getting colorectal cancer screenings. There are several screening test options including a colonoscopy and stool sample test.
When to see a doctor
If you are 50 or older, then you should definitely talk to your doctor about setting up a colorectal screening. Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms. That’s why it’s important to get a screening every year. Symptoms may include blood in or on the stool and stomach pain that is long-lasting. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.
SmartHealth Preventive Care Services
We want to encourage you, as part of your SmartHealth preventative health routine, to get your colon cancer screening. Screening is the number one way you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Screenings are covered once every 10 years from age 50-75 and are free for you as a SmartHealth member as part of your standard preventative health benefits! For more information, check out this preventive care flyer.
If you have not yet selected a primary care provider or need help finding a provider in the Ascension Network (Tier 1), use the Ascension Network Doctor Search function on the SmartHealth website.
Once you access the search portal, you will enter either your city and state, or your zip code. This tells the system where you are looking for providers. From there, you can enter either the doctor’s last name, specialty, or gender to filter down your choices. For example, if you are searching for a primary care provider, you will select the down arrow in the ‘Find by specialty’ box and type in ‘Primary Care Provider’. Once the option appears, select it from the drop down to populate the option into the search box. From there, you will select the ‘Search’ button and the system will produce a list of primary care providers in your area.
To expand or narrow your search by geographic location, you can adjust the mileage radius button in the top left corner, above ‘Address.’ By default, this setting is set to a 25-mile radius.