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POSTED: March 22, 2007 5:12 a.m.
Isn’t it funny how we don’t mind talking about certain parts of our bodies but are embarrassed to mention other parts?
A lot of us are particularly squeamish about talking about our digestive organs, especially the colon and rectum. That hesitation may well play a part in why colo-rectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Georgia and the United States.
We’re not quick to discuss it or to participate in screening programs although the Department of Human Resources and the American Cancer Society recommend one of the following tests, beginning at age 50 for men and women who are at average risk for developing colo-rectal cancer:
Fecal occult blood test annually
Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
Double-contrast barium edema every five years, or
Colonoscopy every 10 years
Even though they’re not favorite topics for conversation, the colon and rectum play very important roles in how our bodies use the food we eat. They are also important in helping our body get rid of leftovers after our body has used what it needs.
We now know that low-calorie, high-fiber diets aid in this digestion and elimination. And that the fruits and vegetables are important to a healthy colon and rectum because they also effectively pass bacteria found in stool out of the body. When this isn’t happening properly, problems such as bloating, gas and pain occur.
The exact causes of colon and rectal cancer are uncertain, but they appear to be caused by both inherited and lifestyle factors. Genetic factors may determine a person’s susceptibility to the disease, while dietary and other lifestyle factors may determine which individuals at risk actually go on to form polyps that later become cancers.
The American Cancer Society has identified several risk factors that increase a person’s chance of developing colo-rectal cancer:
• Age is the primary risk factor, with more than 90 percent of cases of colo-rectal cancer diagnosed in people over the age of 50.
• Risk is increased by a personal or family history of colo-rectal cancer and/or polyps, or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.
• Studies indicate that tobacco users are 30-40 percent more likely than non-smokers to die from colo-rectal cancer. Smoking may be responsible for causing about 12 percent of fatal colo-rectal cancers.
• Alcohol consumption
• Physical inactivity
• Obesity
• A diet high in saturated fat and/or red meat, as well as inadequate intake of fruits, vegetables and fiber.
While many people with colo-rectal cancer don’t have any symptoms, which is why screening for the disease is so crucial, symptoms do occur as the disease progresses and may include:
• Rectal bleeding
• Blood in or on the stool (bright red)
• Change in bowel habits
• Stools that are narrower than usual
• General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
• Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
• Frequent gas pains
• Weight loss for no apparent reason
• Constant tiredness
• Vomiting
If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, you should see your health care professional immediately. When colo-rectal cancers are detected at an early, localized stage, the five-year survival rate is about 90 percent
Reduce your risk for colo-rectal cancer through:
1. Regular screening tests
2. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
3. Healthy eating. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
4. Eliminating tobacco
 

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