COMMUNITY HEALTH RESOURCE: A silent healthcare hero | Lifestyles

Research shows that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Until there is a comprehensive cure for cancer, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and scheduling recommended screenings are the best tools we have. Colonoscopy is a screening tool that stands out as a silent hero.

More than 100,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed each year in men and women, a significant proportion of which will be fatal. What is often forgotten is that thanks to colonoscopies, colorectal cancer is highly preventable and even curable if detected early.

As we address the many modern health issues, it is crucial to shine a light on the importance of colonoscopies and the warning signs that every individual should pay attention to. Beyond knowing that at age 45 you should schedule a colonoscopy, there are some signs that might indicate the need for an earlier procedure or at least a conversation with your healthcare provider.

These red flags or red signs should never be ignored, as they could signal a serious health problem requiring prompt medical attention:

— Persistent changes in bowel habits. Any noticeable changes in stools, such as diarrhea, constipation, or changes in stool consistency, should be investigated, especially if they persist for more than a few days.

— Rectal bleeding or blood in the stools. Although rectal bleeding can result from a variety of benign causes such as hemorrhoids, it can also be a sign of colorectal cancer or other gastrointestinal disorders. Blood in the stool, whether bright red or dark, warrants immediate evaluation by a healthcare professional.

— Abdominal discomfort or pain. Chronic abdominal pain, cramping, or discomfort that does not go away with over-the-counter remedies should be evaluated by a doctor. Such symptoms could indicate conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to colorectal cancer.

— Unexplained weight loss. Significant, unintentional weight loss without changes in diet or physical activity may be a sign of an underlying health problem, including gastrointestinal malignancies.

— Fatigue or weakness. Persistent fatigue or weakness, especially when accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, should prompt further investigation to rule out possible gastrointestinal disturbances.

— Family history of colorectal cancer. People with a family history of colorectal cancer or certain hereditary diseases such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are at increased risk and should be screened regularly at an earlier age.

It’s important to remember that it may not be serious because you have one or more of these signs. However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a more in-depth evaluation.

Whether or not you have a family history of colorectal cancer or any of the symptoms mentioned, focusing on a healthy lifestyle will help reduce the risks of many diseases. Although it can sometimes be difficult to change the behaviors you are accustomed to, there are several health tips you can adopt to try to mitigate future risks:

Eat a balanced diet. Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Limit red and processed meats, as they have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Maintain a healthy weight. Aim to achieve and maintain a healthy weight by combining a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

Stay physically active. Engage in regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Exercise helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by promoting healthy digestion and reducing inflammation.

Limit your alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, so it’s best to drink in moderation or avoid alcohol altogether.

Do not smoke. If you smoke, stop. Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer and improves overall health.

Know your family history. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or certain genetic syndromes, talk to your doctor about earlier or more frequent screening.

Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Adequate hydration promotes healthy digestion and may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

To manage stress. Chronic stress can negatively impact overall health, including digestive health. Practice stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or taking up hobbies you enjoy.

By incorporating these health tips into your lifestyle and being proactive about screening, you can reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer and support your overall well-being. Remember to consult your healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance based on your individual health and risk factors.

Devon Huff, MD, received his doctorate from the University at Buffalo and has extensive experience in laparoscopic surgery and advanced wound care. Huff joined the Orleans Community Health – Medina Memorial Hospital team in December 2023.

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