Frequently Asked Questions About Colorectal Cancer
2. I found a little bit of blood in my stool. Could I have colorectal cancer?
The earliest sign of colorectal cancer may be bleeding. But if you find blood in your stool, don't panic. A number of different illnesses can cause bleeding, not just colon cancer. If you find blood in your stool, see your doctor so that a correct diagnosis can be made and proper treatment received.
Other symptoms to look out for if you suspect colon cancer include:
- Change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
- Unusual stomach or gas pains
- Very narrow stool
- A feeling that the bowel has not emptied completely after passing stool
- Unexplained weight loss
3. I recently had a colonoscopy and my doctor said they removed an adenoma during the procedure. What is an adenoma?
An adenoma is a benign, or non-cancerous polyp or growth in the lining of the large intestine. Adenomas are considered to be precursors of colon and rectal cancer.
All cancers of the colon and rectum begin as an adenoma, but few adenomas (only 1 or 2 out of 100) ever become malignant (cancerous). This process takes several years. When polyps are discovered during an examination of the colon (such as the colonoscopy), doctors sometimes find it hard to tell which are pre-cancerous and which are not. Even among adenomas, it is impossible to tell which ones will become malignant, although larger adenomas are at a higher risk for becoming malignant. For this reason, all polyps in the colon and rectum are removed.
4. Should I change my diet to reduce my risk of getting colon cancer?
There has been substantial debate over whether diet affects a person's risk of colon cancer. It is believed that fiber is important to reduce colon cancer risk, although studies have shown that a high-fiber diet really doesn't make a difference. However, diets rich in fat and cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.
Still, most scientists agree that people should continue to add fiber to their diets, as fiber-rich foods are an important source of nutrients and help prevent many other serious conditions, like heart disease. Research also shows that a high-fiber diet may help lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar, combat overeating, and help prevent other gastrointestinal conditions like diverticulosis (outpouchings of the lining of the intestine that are prone to bleeding and infection), constipation, and maybe even stomach and esophageal cancers.
Keep in mind that the best way to prevent colon cancer is to keep active, eat a balanced diet, maintain your ideal body weight, and schedule polyp screenings regularly after age 50, or earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer.