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Typically, colorectal cancers start with polyps. These can be in the colon for a long time before any type of cancer develops. People who have polyps often don’t have any symptoms. And if symptoms do appear, it may not be until the polyps have become cancer and started to spread, making it harder to treat.
That’s why screenings are so important. They can help find the polyps early, before you have symptoms. Then they can be removed before they become cancer. And if cancer has developed, screenings can help catch it early.
In addition to getting screened, there are lifestyle changes that can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer.
DietEating a diet that’s low in processed meats and animal fats and high in fiber may help lower your risk. You can get more fiber in your diet by eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. And if you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
Other Healthy ChoicesMaintain a healthy weight. Excess body fat, especially around the middle, can increase your risk.
Lack of physical activity can increase your risk, so exercise regularly. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
And avoid smoking and using other tobacco products.
Not all people with colorectal cancer have the same symptoms or any symptoms. But there are some symptoms to watch for:
If colorectal cancer runs in your family, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor. A family history of colorectal cancer can increase your risk. Your doctor may recommend that you start getting screened early.
Originally published 2/25/2019; Revised 2022
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