Protect Your Body: Know the Signs of Colorectal Cancer

doctor with patient

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in Maryland, affecting 1 in 22 men and 1 in 24 women. With symptoms that are often overlooked, it’s important to know the signs of colorectal cancer and the preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk and protect your body.

About colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer, sometimes referred as colon cancer or rectal cancer, occurs when an uncontrolled growth of cells develops in your colon or rectum. While most colorectal cancers begin with a new lump or mass in the wall of the colon or rectum, there are a variety of other symptoms to look out for. They include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Dark or bloody stool
  • Unintentional weight loss

While many of these issues can be caused by other conditions, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. The best prevention is early detection.

Prevention

Above all else, routine screenings are the best way to prevent colorectal cancer. With regular screenings, most growths (polyps) can be found and removed before they turn into cancer. In fact, an estimated 60 percent of colon cancer deaths can be prevented with screenings. The recommended age to start screenings is 45, unless you are a part of a high-risk group—such as if you have a family history of colorectal cancer. To schedule a screening, contact your doctor or contact surgical oncology. You can learn more about screenings here.

There are a variety of other preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. One of the best ways is getting enough physical activity. Regular physical activity and limiting sitting for long periods of time lowers your risk of developing polyps. Reducing your alcohol intake and not smoking—or quitting if you do smoke—also lowers your risk of colorectal cancer.

Your diet is another important factor when it comes to reducing your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Eating lots of red or processed meats, like lunchmeat, increases your risk of this disease. It’s also important to avoid sugary drinks and maintain a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Check out our 5-2-1-0 program to help you develop guidelines for healthier habits.

We realize keeping up with a diet high in fruits and vegetables can sometimes be difficult and expensive. Programs like SHARE Food Network can help alleviate that burden. SHARE helps thousands of families by providing affordable, healthy groceries that are sold at a roughly 50% discount through volunteer-run locations in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan area. By doing this, SHARE helps our community stay healthy and strong.

How to raise awareness

There are many ways you can inform others about the risks and preventative measures related to colorectal cancer. Spreading awareness can save lives.

  • Share this information to social media, urging your friends and followers to learn the symptoms and recognize ways to prevent colorectal cancer.
  • Start a conversation about colorectal cancer with friends and family.
  • Encourage loved ones to talk to their doctor about their risk of colorectal cancer and to get screened if they are 45 years old or older.
  • Encourage others to stay active and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh produce and whole grains.

For more information on colorectal cancer prevention, screenings, and treatment, visit our partner Frederick Health’s website.

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