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Colorectal Cancer Screening: Your Best Defense Against a Preventable Cancer

Written by: Lauren Strait

In March, we observe Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month – a time to spread awareness about this prevalent but preventable cancer. Dr. Dan Meline, a board-certified gastroenterologist from Arizona Digestive Health, recently joined the “Health Futures” radio show to discuss the importance of colorectal cancer screening and prevention.

For the full episode, CLICK HERE.

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Colorectal Cancer on the Rise in Younger Adults One alarming trend is the marked increase in colorectal cancer cases among younger adults under 50. Dr. Meline cited a former University of Michigan athlete who tragically passed away at just 33 from stage 4 colon cancer. While the reasons are still being investigated, factors like obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and gut microbiome changes may play a role.

The Importance of Screening Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers if caught early through regular screening. The new recommended screening age is 45 for those at average risk, but individuals with a family history should start even earlier – about 10 years before the age their relative was diagnosed.

Misconceptions About Colonoscopies Many put off getting a colonoscopy due to misconceptions about the procedure. However, Dr. Meline reassured that complications like perforations are extremely rare in the hands of trained specialists. Preparation has also become much easier, with smaller volume bowel preps and the ability to consume clear liquids, jello, and popsicles the day before.

During the painless, 20-minute procedure under gentle anesthesia, any precancerous polyps can be safely removed, potentially preventing cancer from developing.

Prevention Through Lifestyle In addition to screening, certain lifestyle factors may help reduce colorectal cancer risk:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Managing conditions like diabetes, fatty liver disease, and chronic inflammation
  • Considering low-dose aspirin and vitamin D supplements after consulting a doctor

Don’t Wait for Symptoms Dr. Meline stressed not waiting for symptoms like narrow stools, bleeding, or weight loss before getting screened, as colorectal cancer often causes no early signs. “This is one of those things you want to do while you’re healthy and feeling fine,” he advised.

By understanding risk factors, overcoming colonoscopy fears, and embracing prevention through screening and healthy lifestyles, we can work together to combat this preventable cancer. Schedule your colonoscopy today and take charge of your colorectal health.

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