NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Don't Die of Embarrassment

screening test, colorectal, cancer

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Have you ever postponed a medical screening test? Maybe you think you really don't need it. Maybe it sounded painful. Maybe the thought of the preparation for the medical procedure or the test itself embarrassed you. 

Perhaps you can think of several other reasons to forgo making the call for an appointment.

However, don't skip a colorectal cancer screening test, especially if you have turned 50. Most medical providers recommend a colonoscopy at 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Another option for colorectal cancer screening is a yearly take-home stool kit. Talk to your health-care provider about your preference and testing options for colorectal cancer.

The best test is the one that gets done.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 90 percent of colorectal cancer occurs in people above the age of 50. If you have a personal or family history of the disease, your medical-care provider may recommend the test earlier. 

The colorectal screening test detects precancerous polyps. Early detection can mean a greater chance of a cure.

Sometimes there are no symptoms of colorectal cancer. Other times, people may observe blood in the stool during bowel movements or stomach pains, cramps and/or unexplained weight loss.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In North Dakota, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer incidence and third leading cause of death. If everybody age 50 and older had regular screening tests, colorectal cancer could be reduced by 50 percent.

Lifestyle factors, such a healthful diet and exercise, play a major role in fighting cancer. These are some tips that may reduce your risk of colon cancer and other diseases:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity are linked to a greater risk for colorectal cancer.
  • If you smoke, take steps to quit. Long-term smoking is linked to a greater risk of colon cancer.
  • Enjoy fruits and vegetables of a variety of colors, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Remember to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • "Fiber up" your diet. For colon health, get plenty of insoluble fiber, which is found in wheat bran, whole grains and vegetables. Rinse your vegetables, but eat the skin. High-fiber foods may help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. They are low in calories and often less expensive than highly processed foods. Most adults need 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day, but be sure to increase your fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of water.
  • Enjoy low-fat or fat-free dairy products. The calcium and vitamin D in milk may reduce your risk for colorectal cancer according to many published studies.
  • Get regular physical activity. Health experts recommend that we accumulate 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days per week. For example, take two 15-minute walking breaks every day.

For more information, see "Fast Fiber Facts" available at http://tinyurl.com/fiberfacts.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Food and Nutrition Specialist

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