Most colon cancers arise from polyps. These are small growths within the colon that usually do not cause any symptoms. The good news is, preventing colon cancer is possible through regular screening.
They appear as small bulges from the bowel wall (much like a mushroom protrudes from the ground). Over time the polyps will grow and, under appropriate conditions, turn into colon cancer.
If detected early, polyps can be easily removed through colonoscopy, thereby eliminating the polyps and their risk. Since colon cancer typically arises from colonic polyps, and since polyps do not lead to symptoms, early testing may help to detect and remove polyps and prevent progressive disease.
It is important for patients at risk to be checked early to prevent cancer from developing. Once your turn 50 years of age, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about regular screening to prevent polyps from growing.
Lifestyle changes to help prevent colon cancer
In addition to appropriate screening, there is convincing evidence that diets low in fat and meat and higher in fruits and vegetables can help in preventing colon cancer. Eating whole rather than processed wheat may also help reduce your risk, along with getting enough Vitamin D. Health Canada recommends that everyone over 50 take 400 units of Vitamin D per day (unless there is a reason not to). Some experts also recommend taking folic acid unless someone in your family has had polyps or cancer.