March is Colon Cancer Awareness month. Screenings are increasingly saving lives and new surgical techniques are revolutionizing treatment, helping stop the cancer in its tracks with a nearly 100-percent cure rate.
Eddy Daniels was only 43 years old when doctors diagnosed him with colon cancer. He had no family history of the disease.
He told Local 2, "I'm really happy to say that at the moment, I'm cancer-free, from the moment that the surgery was complete."
Two years ago, he experienced loss of appetite, felt bloated and unintentionally dropped 20 pounds.
Daniels explained, "I had normal energy. I was going to work. I wasn't taking any sick days, but I had this feeling that something wasn't going right and eating made me uncomfortable, which was unusual. I thought it was an ulcer."
A colonoscopy detected a 9-centimeter cancerous tumor.
Daniels said, "The last thing I expected to hear was that."
Dr. Eric Haas with Colorectal Surgical Associates told Local 2, "The good news with colon cancer is that if we catch it early, it's one of the most curable of all cancers."
Haas performed laproscopic surgery on Daniels. Robotic surgery performed at The Methodist Hospital is another minimally invasive technique that is completely changing how colon cancer is treated.
Haas explained, "So the scar is very small. The recovery is much quicker and what we want to do is not only remove the cancer and cure the patient, but really get them back to their families and their work and their daily living much sooner."
Symptoms of colon cancer include: blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits and abdominal pain.
But Haas warned, "About 80 percent of patients with colon cancer have no symptoms at all. So that's why screening means getting tested before you have symptoms."
People with a family history of colorectal cancers should be screened at age 40. Otherwise, the recommendation is to have your first colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years after that.
The Methodist Hospital offered these lifestyle choices which can also reduce your risk of colorectal cancer:
- Increase the intensity and frequency of physical activity. Every activity counts - even house chores and yard work. Try to exercise 30 to 60 minutes each day; both cardiovascular and strength-building activities are beneficial.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. Make fruits or vegetables half of every meal. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower are preventive powerhouse foods with a wealth of cancer-fighting antioxidants. This crunchy group of vegetables contains a group of sulfur-containing plant compounds called glucosinolates, which are responsible for their overpowering smells when cooked. Glucosinolates break down into detoxifying compounds that can help prevent cancer.
- Avoid foods that irritate the colon. Some common culprits of irritated bowels are coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, milk products, tomatoes, chocolates, citric fruits, cheese, alcohol and spicy foods.
- Limit intake of red and processed meats. Try to limit your intake of meats such as beef, pork, lamb, bacon, sausage and deli meats. If you do eat red meat, be mindful of your portions (how much should you limit) and choose lean cuts. When preparing meat, try baking, broiling or poaching rather than frying. Consider replacing red meat with venison.
Coffee may reduce the risk of colon cancer
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that drinking coffee may reduce the risk for colon cancer. Researchers analyzed data on 500,000 individuals over an average of 10 years. The study assessed the relationship between coffee consumption and colon and rectal cancer.
In the study, participants who drank an average of four to five cups of coffee a day had a 15 to 25 percent reduced chance of developing colon cancer. It did not seem to matter whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaf. Tea, on the other hand, seemed to have no impact on colon cancer risk.