(Laura Mcdonald is a Health Promotion Coordinator at Toronto Center Regional Cancer Program, a partner of The Corner)
What is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is cancer of the colon (the lower part of the digestive system) or rectum (the last 6 inches of the colon). It is one of the most common cancers that people die from in Ontario. The good news is that when colon cancer is caught early through screening, 9 out of 10 people with the disease can be cured.
This Colon Cancer Awareness Month, learn how to lower your risk of getting colon cancer and what you can do to help protect yourself.
Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer:
There are several things you can do to lower your risk of colon cancer and help you live a healthier life:
· Have a healthy body weight
· Be physically active as part of everyday life
· Eat a diet rich in fiber (including vegetables, fruits and whole grains)
· Limit red meat and try not to eat processed meat (e.g. bologna, salami)
· Limit alcohol
· Quit smoking and stop using commercial tobacco products
· Consume milk products or calcium rich alternatives
· Get screened regularly for colon cancer
Visit My CancerIQ to learn more about your colon cancer risk and how to reduce your risk.
Get Screened for Colon Cancer:
Regular cancer screening is important because when colon cancer is diagnosed early, it is more likely to be cured. The kind of screening test you get depends on whether you are at average risk of getting colon or at increased risk of getting colon cancer.
Average risk: People who are 50 to 74 years old with no first-degree relatives (parent, brother, sister or child) who have been diagnosed with colon cancer.
If you are at average risk, you should talk to your family doctor or nurse practitioner about getting screened with a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every 2 years starting at age 50.
The FIT is a free at-home test:
· It is safe and painless
· It only takes a few minutes to do
· You only need one stool (poop) sample
· You can eat and take medications as usual
· The test can be mailed to your address of choice
If you do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, you can get your free FIT kit from Health811 by calling 811 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007).
Increased risk: People who have a family history of colon cancer that includes 1 or more first-degree relatives (parent, brother, sister or child) with the disease.
If you are at increased risk, you should get screened with a colonoscopy starting at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age your first-degree relative was diagnosed with colon cancer, whichever comes first. How often you get screened depends on the age your first-degree relative was diagnosed.
If you think that you may be at increased risk of getting colon cancer based on your family history, speak to a healthcare provider. Learn more about getting checked for colon cancer: cancercareontario.ca/colorectal