Did you know that the risk of suffering or not from colon cancer has a lot to do with our lifestyle? Despite the fact that, to this day, it is still the most frequent type of tumor in Spain, with more than 37,000 cases each year , the good news is that 9 out of 10 people manage to survive if detected early.
Hence, each year on the occasion of World Colon Cancer Day, which is celebrated on March 31, we insist on the importance of all of us adopting good habits, such as healthy eating and regular physical exercise . Without forgetting, of course, the early detection programs that public health must guarantee to people at greatest risk.
Write down these tips that we have prepared for you and that will help you make the best decisions to take care of your health.
What is colon cancer?
The colon cancer is a malignant tumor that, in most cases begins with the appearance of a polyp in the mucous glands of the large intestine and that, with time and for different reasons, grows into colorectal cancer.
Having a polyp does not necessarily mean having cancer. Polyps can take a few years to grow, and for example, a polyp that develops on the lining of the intestine can take up to about 10 years to develop into a malignant tumor.
What are the causes of colon cancer?
Like most malignant tumors, there is no single cause of colon cancer. There are many factors involved, however, we do know that there is a common denominator to all types of cancer: a failure in cell reproduction that leads to uncontrolled growth and reproduction of cells. In this way, cancer cells acquire the ability to multiply and spread throughout the body without control.
What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
There are several factors that can increase the risk of colon cancer. As we said, most of them have to do with our lifestyle and, therefore, they are easy to modify; However, you should not forget that the risk increases in certain cases:
- Most cases usually appear from the age of 50 , so these people are considered a risk group.
- When there is a history of inflammatory bowel disease.
- When there is a history of polyps or colon cancer.
- When there is a family history of colon cancer.
- Some inherited syndromes (Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis, etc.).
Therefore, if you have any of the aforementioned background, go to the doctor to see you and advise.
What can I do to reduce my risk?
According to studies, up to 50% of cancer cases could be avoided by following healthy lifestyles in our daily lives . For example:
- Adopt a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, nuts and water. The Mediterranean diet is the one recommended by the WHO to have a good quality of life and prevent degenerative diseases. Avoid processed meat (sausages, sausages, ham …) and limit other foods such as red meat, pastries, sugary drinks … Remember that being overweight and obese increases the risk of cancer and other diseases.
“Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to improve its flavor or preservation.” (source: WHO)
- Do physical activity of moderate intensity at least three times a week – an hour a day of walking at a good pace, riding a bicycle or playing sports such as tennis or paddle tennis. If you choose vigorous physical activity, such as running or aerobic exercises, 40 minutes will suffice.
- Do not smoke! Smoking is linked to up to 13 different types of cancer, including colon cancer.
- Don’t drink alcohol! Alcohol consumption is linked to more than 7 different types of cancer, including colon cancer. And let’s not kid ourselves: a glass of wine a day has no health benefits.
What are the symptoms of colon cancer?
The symptoms that alert us to the possibility of suffering from colon cancer and that indicate that we should consult a specialist are:
- Presence of blood in the stool.
- Noticeable tiredness.
- Unexplained change in bowel habit (constipation, the appearance of thin stools, etc.).
Not in all cases these signs are present, and not in all the cases that are present do they signify a diagnosis of colon cancer. This information is referential and, when in doubt, you should always go to the doctor.
How to detect colon cancer?
There are various tests and ways to diagnose colon cancer. Normally, a stool occult blood test is performed and, if positive, a colonoscopy is performed . Depending on the result of the intestinal tissue samples obtained, the following steps are proposed.
We recommend that if you are at risk age (50 to 79 years, although this range may vary depending on the Autonomous Community), inform yourself at your health center about the screening tests and how to participate in them.
What is the prognosis for colon cancer?
The prognosis of the disease depends on the stage in which it is detected, the characteristics of the patient and the type of treatment received. Fortunately, survival is above 90% in patients in whom cancer has been detected in the early stages. That means that 9 out of 10 people who are detected early survive.