Besides storing and expelling waste, your colon hosts your body’s bacterial ecosystem and facilitates your fluid/electrolyte balance. However, like many people, you may not appreciate how crucial this organ is to your health and continued existence until a problem develops. The third-greatest cancer risk among Americans attacks the colon. During 2013, almost 143,000 people received colon cancer diagnoses, and nearly 51,000 died from this disease.
Soaring Statistics to Come
While the colon cancer rate has dropped for older Americans, incidences in the 20 to 49–age range are up and continuing to rise drastically. An analysis of 1975-2010 datafrom the U.S. National Cancer Institute showed that colon cancer cases went down by around one percent per year for people age 50 and up, but they increased two percent annually in the 20 to 34–age range and almost half a percentage point for those between 35 and 49.
The researchers predict new and alarmingly high cancer occurrences way into the future. By 2020 and 2030, their findings estimate that colon cancer rates will increase around 38 and 90 percent, respectively, for people between 20 and 34 while they will decline by approximately 23 and 41 percent, respectively, in those over 50.
MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Dr. Christina Bailey and her research team report that their study highlights the need for healthier lifestyles and earlier screenings in people with risk influences and symptoms. The growing surge of this cancer in younger adults is a concern that requires additional attention. Investigating possible causes along with external influences including insufficient testing and behavioral issues is essential.
Two decades back, doctors rarely diagnosed patients in their 20s through 40s with colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, that is much more usual today, notes gastroenterologist Dr. David Bernstein from North Shore University Hospital. Determining why colon cancer is rising in young adults, particularly those between 20 and 34, is challenging. But he reasons that it may involve environmental or dietary influences. Bernstein supports doctors being more aggressive to investigate younger adults who report minor rectal bleeding. Physicians dismiss this symptom as hemorrhoids usually when it might be cancer.
Dr. Jerald Wishner, colorectal surgery director for Northern Westchester Hospital, points out that doctors have no standardized screening recommendations for patients under age 50 who don’t have risk factors. Unfortunately, colorectal cancer has few early warning signs, and by the time patients experience symptoms, their diseases may be at advanced stages. That’s why young patients with symptoms tend to have poorer prognoses.
Wishner reminds younger people that the current recommendation to begin having colonoscopies after 50 applies only to no-risk patients. Because many people are unfamiliar with colon cancer risk factors, he advises all adult patients to discuss them with their physicians. Your risk assessment and/or any symptoms may warrant initiating early screenings.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these criteria might increase your colon cancer risk:
Colon polyp or colorectal cancer personal history
Chronic inflammatory colon diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
Inherited syndromes including hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer and familial adenomatous polyposis
Family history of polyps or colorectal cancers
Low-fiber and high-fat diets with excess red meat
Heavy alcohol consumption
If you receive a colon cancer diagnosis at any age, you may take Xeloda (Capecitabine), an oral chemotherapy medication. This anti-metabolite stops your cells’ DNA and RNA production, which halts cancer cell growth. Your body converts it to 5-fluorouracil, another drug that helps more active medication reach your tumor.
Poor eating habits are a major colon cancer cause (see video below). Certain foods contain carcinogenic substances. Frying, barbequing, and grilling meats, chicken, and fish at high temperatures create dangerous heterocyclic amine compounds. Cooking food over an open flame or using a meat-smoker encourages the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. Minimizing or avoiding your carcinogenic food intake can help ward off or restrict colon cancer.
Other dietician-recommended preventative tips from include:
Drink calcium-rich milk regularly.
Lower your red meat consumption.
Decline processed foods like hot dogs, bacon, and salami with the sodium nitrite preservative.
Increase your fruit and non-starchy vegetable intake.
Eat more fiber, especially whole-food varieties.
Colon cancer impairs your body’s ability to digest your food and absorb its nutrients properly. Over time, severe malnutrition may result. This can make you feel weak. Adjusting these diet guidelines according to your symptoms and personal preferences can prevent malnutrition while improving your quality of the life:
Skip caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages.
Avoid hard-to-digest nuts and seeds as well as raw vegetables and fruits with skin.
Make bland, non-spicy food choices such as crackers, boiled or baked chicken, etc.
Soak easily digestible soft, creamy foods in sauces or gravies.
If diarrhea is a problem, choose clear liquids and foods that are low in both fat and fiber.
For constipation, increase fluids including prune juice and small caffeinated beverage servings. Also, eat oatmeal, raw vegetables and fruits, and other high-fiber foods.
To prevent bloating, eliminate cabbage, broccoli, onions, garlic, and eggs. Avoid foods that contain sorbitol and fructose.