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Colorectal (Colon) Cancer

Few cancers are easily preventable as colorectal (colon) cancer. Colon cancer is the number two cause of cancer deaths in America each year. The colon is the large intestine in the body where pre-cancerous polyps may form.

Screening Information

Detection of the pre-cancerous polyps is done through screenings such as colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, barium enema or virtual colonoscopy.

Screenings for colon cancer should be done on men and women starting at 45 to 50 years of age and thereafter as deemed necessary by your health care provider and screening results. Seldom is colon cancer diagnosed at an early and treatable stage because people do not have one of the early screening procedures listed above done.

Signs and Symptoms
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel movement frequency
  • Change in stool size
  • Unexplained anemia (low red blood cells)
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent abdominal pain
  • Constant tiredness
  • Vomiting

Signs and symptoms for colon cancer may not be present. That is why screenings are so important. It is important that you do not wait for these symptoms to appear before you have a screening.

What Can You Do?

Use prevention methods to decrease your risk of colorectal cancer. Some methods are:

Maintain a healthy diet of fruits, green leafy vegetables, beans and whole grains.

Limit portion size when eating and make an effort not to overeat.

Limit your intake of red meats because they are higher in fat than fish, chicken and turkey.

Limit your intake of fried foods and high fat dairy products. Use skim milk rather than regular milk and try low-fat yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Use vegetable oil instead of butter or lard in cooking.

High-fiber foods (strawberries, apples with skin, oranges, raisins, whole grain cereals, black beans, Brussels sprouts, potatoes baked with the skin, carrots, peas, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and peanuts) are the best source of fiber in your diet. If you cannot get enough fiber through your diet you may want to consider adding a soluble high fiber daily.

Maintain a daily exercise routine to stay physically fit and to maintain a healthy weight. Thirty minutes of a brisk walk five or more days each week is considered healthy daily exercise.

Tobacco Cessation

The use of tobacco in any form is a great health concern. Even if you don't smoke, reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke. If you use tobacco products, prepare yourself to quit as soon as possible.

  • Set a date to stop and mark it on your calendar. Twenty-four hours before the start date make everyone aware of your goal to stop.
  • Remove the smell of tobacco by cleaning your house and car. Remember to get rid of lighters, ashtrays and matches.
  • You can use over-the-counter aids such as nicotine patches and gum. Contact your health insurance provider to see if Nicotine replacement therapy is a covered service.
  • Know what your triggers are that make you want to use tobacco products and be prepared with chewing gum, celery or carrot sticks.
  • Kentucky has a free Quit Now program that helps you quit using tobacco products. You can contact the Quit Now program at (800) 784-8669.


Last Updated 9/28/2012