Colorectal Cancer : Prevent It or Detect It

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By:  Steven M. Stoltz, MD, CPI
Spring time is when we reflect upon the renewal of life as we watch the flowers bloom in the Valley.  It’s also the time for keeping up with our chores and spring cleaning lists.  This spring, renew your life by making sure that taking care of your health is the first item on your to do list.  Investing time in your health now will help you to continue with good health in the future.
March is Prevent Cancer Foundation’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and National Nutrition Month, supported by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association).  You can prevent colon cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and choosing to eat more foods that you can find in nature.
Did you know that obese people are at higher risk of colon cancer than those at a healthy weight?  This is especially true in men!  One explanation for this association is that unhealthy diets, namely those that contain more fat and fewer fruits & vegetables, not only increase body mass (BMI) but also increase risk for several types of cancer.   Valley residents are fortunate because we have the opportunity to eat lots of local citrus fruit, and these foods have been demonstrated to reduce cancer risk.
There’s more you can do.  It has been shown that 30-60 minutes of physical activity daily may reduce risk for several types of cancer by 20 to 40 percent and help you to maintain a healthy weight.
As a physician, I recommend a diet of naturally occurring foods and regular physical activity for general good health and to prevent cancer.  Of course, while eating right and exercising can tilt the odds in your favor, there are no 100 percent guarantees for a life free from illness.  Still, by eating right and incorporating physical activity into your day, you can increase your chances of being cancer-free.
Because cancers develop from an interaction between our genes, our environment, and our lifestyle choices, cancer still develops in some.  In fact, it’s estimated that each year over 141,200 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and an estimated 49,380 will die from it.  Furthermore, the mortality rate is higher in rural versus urban areas.
The single best way to reduce your risk of cancer is to prevent it, and the second best strategy is to find it early if it does develop.  Screenings are routine tests you undergo to detect a disease early before you even have symptoms.  There are two types of screenings for colon cancer:  the fecal occult blood test and the colonoscopy.
A fecal occult blood test is an affordable colon cancer screening which looks for blood in the intestine and can be done at home once a year.  A more specific, diagnostic test called the colonoscopy is another way to be checked for colon cancer.  During a colonoscopy, a doctor will pass a camera through the intestines and look for any abnormalities.  If any are suspected, they can also be biopsied.  If cancer is detected, don’t despair.  Results of treatment are better the earlier treatment is administered in the disease process.
Just remember these tidbits and use them as tools to prevent colon cancer and stay fit:  eat a diet full of naturally occurring foods like fruits and vegetables, exercise, and get checked by your doctor regularly.
Steven M. Stoltz, MD, CPI, is the Physician Executive and President of South Texas Institutes of Health, Inc., as well as a respected physician in the Rio Grande Valley.  He completed his undergraduate education at The University of Texas at Austin, attended medical school at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, and was a resident through the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio’s McAllen Family Medicine Residency Program.  For more information, visit Dr. Stoltz’s website at www.stxih.org, call his office at 956-994-9832 or toll-free at 1-888-648-3390, or follow his nonprofit on Twitter @STxIH for health information and local health events.