Colorectal cancer, a disease that begins in the colon and rectum, is something most people would rather not talk about, much less get examined for.
But colorectal cancer is now the No. 2 cause of cancer-related deaths for Americans. If caught early, however, it is easily treated and often cured. The key is making simple lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of contracting the disease and getting tested regularly if you're 50 or older.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Early colon cancer often has no symptoms. But later on, colon cancer symptoms may include rectal bleeding, stomach cramps, weight loss, a change in bowel habits or just feeling tired. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your doctor to make sure colon cancer isn't the cause.
A family history of other cancers may also raise one's risk for colon cancer, so ask relatives about your family's cancer history.
Ways to avoid developing colon cancer include: exercise at least 30 minutes on most days; eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily; stop smoking; drink alcohol in moderation if you drink at all; and stay at your ideal weight.
Until March 31, if you have concerns about colorectal cancer, you can ask an expert from a leading medical institution your questions anonymously by visiting the Cancer Research Foundation of America at its Web site www.preventcancer.org/colorectal.
For more information about colon cancer testing and risk factors, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit its Web site at www.cancer.org.
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