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Talk to Your Doctor about Colorectal Cancer

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Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, regardless of race and ethnicity. It is most often found in people who are 50 years old or older. However, there is an increasing rate of colorectal cancer in those who are under 50, because of physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet. It is important for younger adults to start paying attention to their colorectal health.

According to Dr. Robert Andrew Heyding, a physician at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, “Colorectal cancer causes almost one out of every ten cancer deaths in the United States. Fortunately it can be prevented. You can lower your risk by choosing healthy habits and getting regular screening”.

It’s never too early to start living healthy. Here are some good health habits to lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer:

  • Do not smoke – quit smoking and try avoid second hand smoke. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation resources. Charles B. Wang Community Health Center has bilingual quit smoking resources, you can view those here.
  • Reduce alcoholic drinks – limit to one drink a day or less.
  • Eat a healthy diet – limit high fat or sugary foods, preserved foods, and red meat. Add more fruits and vegetables to your plate.
  • Exercise regularly – walk, jog, swim, or dance. Strive to be active for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Keep a healthy weight – talk to your family doctor about what is a healthy weight for you.

Other than having healthy habits, getting screened is very important to prevent cancer. When detected early, there are more treatment options and fewer complications. The most commonly used screening methods include:

  • A Fecal Occult Blood Test (FBOT) checks for blood in stool. Blood in stool may indicate presence of diseases and a colonoscopy may be needed for a diagnosis.
  • A colonoscopy is a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light on the end is used to examine the colon. It may also have a tool to remove abnormal tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

In general, it is recommended that men and women of average risk levels begin screening at age 50. However, some individuals may need to begin screening earlier, such as those who have family or personal history of colorectal cancer or chronic colorectal diseases, and those who are experiencing symptoms of colorectal diseases, such as persistent abdominal pain or changes in bowel habits for at least two weeks.

Discuss with your primary care doctor about when to start screening, which screening method to use, and how often you should get screened. Also speak to your doctor regarding your risk factors or anything unusual in your body. You can make an appointment to see a primary care provider here at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center by calling (212) 379-6998 for Manhattan, and (718) 886-1200 (37th Ave) or (929) 362-3006 (45th Ave) for Queens.