March marks the start of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Like many diseases and illnesses, knowing your family history and making healthier lifestyle choices can help lower the risk of getting diagnosed.
Dr. Girish Mishra, gastroenterology section chief at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and professor of gastroenterology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, believes screening is key for prevention and early detection.
The American Cancer Society recently recommended that adults without family history should begin colorectal cancer screening at age 45. Those who have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps should get screened at age 40, or 10 years before the youngest case in their immediate family.
“Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States,” Mishra said. “That is why getting screened is so important when you turn 45 years old or experience any symptoms. Delaying a screening can be the difference between life or death.”
A screening can often find polyps before they become cancerous. In most cases, unless a polyp is found, people won’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years.
5 Tips to Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer:
- Limit how much meat you eat
- Avoid processed food
- Use olive oil for cooking
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly
“The preparation the night before a colonoscopy can be a bit unpleasant, but you'll be sedated for the procedure and it could save your life,” Mishra said.
Those who have questions about scheduling a colonoscopy can always reach out to a Wake Forest Baptist gastroenterology specialist by visiting wakehealth.edu/diagnostic-tools/colonoscopy.