March 1st marks the beginning of Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and in the next few weeks I’ll use this platform to highlight my own experiences as a rectal cancer survivor in hopes that it can somehow help another person out there. Never in my wildest dreams did I think cancer would affect my own life, let alone leave me with a permanent ostomy. Here are the facts about colorectal cancer you need to know:
- Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death
- The American Cancer Society has recently lowered its recommended screening age to forty-five years old
- African Americans, people with family history of colorectal cancer, history of polyps, history of undiagnosed stomach issues should seek colonoscopies much sooner
- Early screening is key, as this is a slow-growing cancer and regular colonoscopies remove any polyps before they can turn into cancer
Probably the most startling and important fact about colorectal cancer is that it is on the rise. If you find yourself in the millenial category, your risk of rectal cancer is four times greater than people your parent’s age. Read that again: the people getting this cancer are not your parents friends, they are your best friend, your sister, your co-worker. This post isn’t about why that increase is occurring but moreover making sure this disease is no longer defined as something that affects those “fifty and older”.
Millenial’s also need to be aware that colorectal cancer in younger people is often diagnosed at much later stages due to being misdiagnosed or individuals putting off seeking treatment. We will highlight symptoms of colorectal cancer in another post but any changes at all in bathroom habits that aren’t cleared up within a week or so should be brought to your doctor’s attention. Our bodies are good at giving us indicators when something is off, but we have to be mindful and aware of our bodies natural habits. Our lives are busy and hectic but taking a moment to stay in tune with your body could greatly benefit your health.
While we’re on the topic of doctor’s and bodily functions, let’s all take a moment to remember that we’re all adults here (well, most of us…) and that everyone poops. Literally everyone. If you don’t, it will result in serious medical complications. Take this moment to realize that it’s serious to be honest with your medical providers about symptoms, even if you think they are embarrassing. I can assure you, ending up in the emergency room with a rectal exam while in writhing pain is no cakewalk either.
Ways to Lower Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer
While regular colonoscopies and screening will help prevent colorectal cancer, there are actually actions you can take yourself to lower your risk for colorectal cancer:
- Get screened at the appropriate time based on your personal risk factors
- Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much
- Get regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight + immune system
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
- Take control of your mental health and find a routine that works for you
While we can all say we’ve probably heard the above statements can benefit our health, how many of us have actually put forth the effort to incorporate them into our lives? I think you’d be surprised that doing so will not only lower your risk for colorectal cancer, but greatly improve all factors of your life including but not limited to: better sleep, skin, improved mood etc.
Again, this is not a post to fear monger, but rather to put a buzz into young people’s ears that this is happening. It happened to me. It can happen to you.
Please note that I am not a doctor and any and all medical conditions should always be discussed with your own doctor and that is not google. Power and community is in sharing our experiences and knowledge.