Colorectal health an important part of women’s health
Each year when women go for their routine gynecological exam, they often associate it with detecting cancers that are unique to women such as cervical, ovarian and breast cancers. However, an annual gynecological exam can also assist in detecting the third most common cancer in the US, colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. According to the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation, 143,400 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, of which, 53,000 die of the disease. With Colorectal Cancer being one of the most preventable cancers, during National Colorectal Awareness Month it is important to learn your personal risk and how you can be proactive in preventing this disease.
Many of the risk factors of colorectal cancer are behavior related. These include being obese, physically inactive, using tobacco, consuming an excess amount of alcohol, eating a diet low in fruits/vegetables and high in red meat (particularly processed cold cuts). While many of these risk factors can be modified through behavior change, it is also important to know the ones that are beyond a patient’s control so that appropriate detection can be practiced. Risk factors that are beyond a patient’s control include being over the age of 50 and having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or other inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis).
Many of these risk factors can be addressed with behavior modification. If you are at risk, begin eating a diet that is high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week in order to maintain a healthy weight. Cut down on red meat, processed meat and alcohol. Quitting smoking will not only reduce your risk of colorectal disease, but a host of other cancers as well. All people over the age of 50 should be screened for colon cancer, however if you have personal or family history, screening should begin at an earlier age. For instance, if a family member was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your screening should begin 10 years prior to the age that family member diagnosed.
At Lebanon Family Health Services, we have been meeting the reproductive health needs of women in Lebanon County for over 40 years. Many women can have their first signs of colorectal cancer detected at their annual pelvic exam through a procedure called a hemocult. In addition to scheduling an annual gynecological exam, if you smoke, be sure to sign up for one of our tobacco cessation programs in order to reduce your risk of one of the most preventable forms of cancer, colorectal cancer.