Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the lining of the colon and rectum. It is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States, with an estimated 149,500 new cases in 2021 alone. However, the impact of colorectal cancer on African American culture is particularly concerning, as they are more likely to develop the disease at a younger age and are more likely to die from it compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
Colorectal Cancer in African Americans
The colon and rectal cancer incidence and mortality rate are higher in African Americans than in other races in the United States. In Memphis, Tenn., African Americans have a higher incidence rate of colorectal cancer. They are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease. This disparity may be due to various factors, including genetics, lifestyle factors, and healthcare access and quality differences.
The Importance of Screening for Colorectal Cancer
Early detection is crucial for effective treatment of colon and rectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals with an average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screening at age 45. In contrast, those with a higher risk, including African Americans, should start screening at age 40 or earlier, depending on family history and other factors. Screening tests include colonoscopy, stool tests, virtual colonoscopy and at-home colonoscopy tests.
At-home colonoscopy tests, also known as fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), can be a convenient and non-invasive option for those who are hesitant to undergo a traditional colonoscopy. These tests detect blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer or pre-cancerous polyps. If the results are positive, a follow-up colonoscopy is recommended.
It's important to talk to your doctor about the best screening option based on your individual risk factors and preferences. No matter which screening method you choose, regular screening is vital to detecting colon and rectal cancer early and improving your chances of successful treatment.
Symptoms of Colon and Rectal Cancer
The symptoms of colorectal cancer can vary depending on the location of the tumor, but common symptoms include the following:
- Persistent abdominal discomforts, such as cramps, gas or pain
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fatigue and weakness
- Change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or a change in the consistency of the stool
It should be noted that symptoms in colon and rectal cancer are often absent until late in the disease process, which makes it even more important to get screened early.
Fight Colorectal Cancer with a Healthy Lifestyle
Living a healthy lifestyle can also help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Many factors contribute to the development of colon and rectal cancer, including genetics, age and diet, but lifestyle choices are also significant.
Manage Your Weight
One of the most important things you can do to prevent colorectal cancer is to maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Obesity and being overweight have been linked to an increased risk of developing colon cancer. Excess body fat can cause inflammation, damaging cells, thereby increasing the risk of cancer.
Another essential aspect of living a healthy lifestyle is eating a healthy diet. A diet high in fiber and low in fat and red meat has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber helps promote regular bowel movements, which can help reduce the amount of time waste products spend in the colon. This reduced time, in turn, can reduce the exposure of the colon to harmful substances that can increase the risk of cancer.
Regular physical activity is also crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk of colorectal cancer. Exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion. Studies have shown that physically active people have a lower risk of developing colon cancer than inactive people.
Avoid Harmful Substances
Avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption is also essential for reducing your risk of colorectal cancer. Smoking and heavy drinking have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer and other types of cancer.
H2: Take Charge of Your Colon Health Today!
Colon and rectal cancer is preventable and treatable, but taking action to reduce your risk is crucial. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can help reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and improve your overall health. Don't wait until it's too late – take control of your health and schedule a screening today. If you are an African American or have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, talk to your doctor about the appropriate screening schedule.
Talk to your doctor about your risk of colorectal cancer.