Alaska Health Fair, Inc. 

Colon cancer prevention, symptoms, and lifestyle tips

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


March 1, 2024 | View PDF

It's March again, the month when we ditch our winter blues, welcome springtime, and ... talk about colon cancer? It's not the most thrilling topic for a conversation starter, but knowledge is power and in this case, it could be lifesaving for you or someone you love.

What is colon cancer?

Colon (or colorectal) cancer starts in the large intestine, which is an essential part of your digestive system. It usually develops slowly over time, beginning as noncancerous growths called polyps. Regular screenings are crucial because early detection can lead to successful treatment and improved outcomes.

Who's at risk?

While anyone can get colon cancer, certain factors increase your chances:

Age. Most cases occur in people over 50 years old

Family history. If a close relative had it, you might be more susceptible

Lifestyle. Obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and low fiber/high red meat diets can raise your risk

What are the symptoms?

Early colon cancer often has no warning signs, making screenings even more critical. However, watch out for: Changes in bathroom habits; blood in stool; abdominal pain and cramps; unexplained weight loss; fatigue and anemia

Minimizing your risks

Here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make today that could make all the difference.

Eat your greens (and other colors too). A balanced diet packed with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins can help keep those colon cells in line. Limit red meat and processed foods, which have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.

Get moving! Regular exercise reduces your risk of developing various types of cancer, including colon cancer. So, lace up those sneakers and go for a walk, hit the gym, or dance like nobody's watching.

Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of developing not only lung cancer but also colon cancer. Kick that habit to the curb.

Limit alcohol. Overindulging in alcoholic beverages can raise your risk, so stick to one drink per day if you’re a woman, two for men.

Get screened. Early detection is key. Colonoscopies might not be the most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, but they can detect polyps before they turn into full-blown cancer. Talk to your doctor about when and how often you should get screened based on your personal risk factors.

Early detection

The earlier colon cancer is caught, the better your chances of successful treatment. Don't let fear or embarrassment keep you from getting screened. By understanding your risk factors, adopting healthy habits, and prioritizing regular screenings, you're taking important steps toward a healthier colon and overall well-being. You've got this.

Join the fight against colon cancer by sharing this article with loved ones and encouraging them to get screened too. If you have any concerns or questions about your colon health, don't hesitate to reach out to a medical professional.

Screening kits available at health fairs

Helena ColoCARE kits are available at all health fair events for $5. The kit provides an affordable and convenient colorectal cancer screening option. ColoCARE is a fecal occult blood test that detects pre-symptomatic bleeding caused by gastrointestinal diseases. It is easy to use, clean, disposable, and environmentally friendly. Please read and follow the kit’s instructions carefully.


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