7 Strategies to Manage Colon Cancer Symptoms Naturally
Dr. Josh Axe
Jan 11, 2018
Colon cancer symptoms can be similar to those caused by a number of other illnesses, such as hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. In other words, just because you have unusual bowel movements or pain doesn't mean you have cancer.
[Food is Medicine] Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer when it affects the rectum as well, is one of the most prevalent types of cancer. It accounts for up to 15 percent of all cancer cases in some countries. (1) Over the past several decades it's become much more common for cancerous cells to be found in the colon (large intestine) and/or rectum of both women and men. In the United States, colon cancer is now the third most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of death from cancer. (2, 3) (Photo Credit: Dr. Josh Axe/ Food is Medicine)
The American Cancer Society states that about 1 in 20 Americans will develop colon cancer at some point during their lifetime. (4) Something else that's alarming? Colorectal cancer rates are even climbing among young people. It's not entirely known what causes every case of colorectal cancer, although many lifestyle factors are known to increase the risk. Only about 5 percent of colon cancer cases are believed to be inherited, which means it's highly likely that there's a lot you can do to protect yourself. Given these statistics, it's important to know more about colon cancer symptoms.
What are some colon cancer symptoms to be aware of that may indicate a problem? Early signs of colon cancer can include abdominal pain and blood in your stools, although it's also possible for other disorders to cause these same symptoms. When detected and treated in its early stages, colon cancer can usually be overcome. Research regarding colon cancer survival rates shows that about 80–90 percent of people with early stages of colon cancer will live at least five years after being diagnosed. Sadly, once the cancer progresses to stage 3 or 4, about 11–53 percent will live at least five years. (5)
The earlier that colon cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat. Should you ever be diagnosed with colon cancer you'll have the best chances of recovering when you get treatment right away. Below you'll find much more about the most common colon cancer symptoms, along with ways to lower your risk starting with diet and lifestyle changes.
What Is Colon Cancer?
Colon, or colorectal cancer, is cancer that affects the colon and/or rectum. When cancer is found in both the colon and rectum it is called colorectal cancer, but when it's found only in the colon it is called colon cancer (or sometimes bowel cancer).
Colon cancer commonly starts developing when small benign clumps of cells that are called adenomatous polyps form in the colon. These can remain non-cancerous or start to form cancerous cells. What are early signs of colon cancer? Abnormal stools (including changes in frequency and appearance) are one of the first indications that a problem may be developing in the colon. Other colon cancer symptoms include changes in appetite, weight loss, nutrient deficiencies and weakness.
Signs & Symptoms of Colon Cancer
How does colon cancer affect a person's body? Many times colon cancer in its early stages won't cause any noticeable symptoms. But once it spreads and progresses it can start to change the way that stools are formed, fluids are balanced, and nutrients are absorbed and the way that other organs function.
Is there pain associated with colon cancer that might alert you to a problem? Some people with colon cancer experience abdominal pain, although not everyone does. The later the stage of colon cancer, the higher likelihood there is that pain and other colon cancer symptoms will become noticeable and interfere with everyday life.
The most common colon cancer symptoms include:
Colon Cancer Causes & Risk Factors
Risk factors for colon cancer include: (6)
Colon Cancer Stages & Screening
The American Cancer Society now recommends that adults over the age of 50 have regular colon cancer screenings performed, especially if they are at an increased risk of developing cancer. The goal of screening for colon cancer is to find the cancer as soon as possible and prevent it from spreading. Screening helps doctors to detect pre-cancerous growths called polyps, which can removed in order to help stop the growth of cancerous tumors. (8)
Colon cancer stages depend on which parts of the colon are affected; if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes; and if other organs or tissues are impacted (in other words, if the cancer has metastasized). Many times a cancerous tumor that forms in the colon will remain localized (it won't spread). But in some cases the cancer can spread to other parts of the body including the small intestine, liver, diaphragm or pancreas. When cancerous cells are carried in the bloodstream to other locations in the body it makes the cancer much harder to treat.
Cancer stages are split into numbers and letters. Numbers range from 0–5, with 0 being the least severe and 5 being the most. Letters A, B and C can be used to indicate sub-stages, with A being less severe and C being more severe. Some doctors also grade cancers, ranging from grade 1 to 4, which indicate how cancer looks when examined under a microscope compared to normal tissue.
Below are the stages of colon cancer and what makes them unique: (9)
Conventional Treatments for Colon Cancer
How do you detect colon cancer? In its early stages colon cancer can be diagnosed in several ways:
Treatments for colon cancer will depend on the stage of cancer. Typical treatments can include one or more of the following: (10)
7 Natural Ways to Relieve Colon Cancer Symptoms
What are some ways you reduce your risk for colon cancer? Below are strategies for helping to prevent colon cancer, as well as managing colon cancer symptoms such as diarrhea, bloody stools and pain.
1. Increase Antioxidant & Fiber Consumption
Eating foods that promote inflammation and provide little nutritional value has been linked to higher risk for cancer colon. These foods include factory-farm-raised red meat (such as beef, pork or lamb) and processed meats (such as hot dogs, salami and some deli/luncheon meats). It's even riskier if these meats are cooked at very high temperatures, such as barbecued or roasted.
A November 2017 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found evidence that increasing fiber intake following colon cancer diagnosis offered patients benefits including improved odds of survival. The eight-year long study included 1,600 adults diagnosed with stage 1–3. All participants completed food-frequency questionnaires for up to eight years following their diagnosis. Researchers found that for every additional 5 grams of dietary fiber that someone ate per day they experienced a 22 percent decrease in colorectal cancer mortality and a 14 percent decrease in all-cause mortality. (11)
Below are some of the best high-fiber foods to start including in your diet:
There are also other cancer-fighting foods to eat regularly due to how they help lower inflammation and improve nutrient deficiencies. These include:
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you have a history of colon cancer, then staying at a healthy weight may help prevent it from returning. Being overweight or obese has been linked to higher risk for colon and rectal cancer. You can work towards losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight by eating an anti-inflammatory diet, managing stress, getting enough sleep and regularly exercising. Obesity is linked to higher cancer incidence in both men and women, but adult men who are obese seem to be impacted most.
3. Stay Active & Get Enough Exercise
People who are more physically active have better protection against developing colon cancer, as well as overall improvements in health. Some research has found that getting regular exercise may reduce your colon cancer risk by 40 to 50 percent! (12) It might also be helpful while in recovery since it improves well-being and can lower stress, depression or anxiety.
Exercise helps to reduce inflammation, improve circulation, support the immune system and can help you control your weight. Getting enough physical activity can also reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to higher colon cancer risk.
4. Limit Alcohol Consumption & Quit Smoking
Studies have found that people who drink high amounts of alcohol and smoke or use tobacco products are more likely to die from colon cancer compared to moderate drinks and non-smokers. Keep your alcohol consumption in check by having no more than two drinks a day if you're a man, or one drink a day if you're a woman. For help quitting smoking, talk to your doctor about useful interventions; speak with a therapist; or start an online program that specializes in smoking cessation. (13)
5. Treat Underlying Health Issues (Such as IBD)
People who have a history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis or Crohn's, may develop dysplasia, which are cells in the lining of the colon that are normal but can become cancerous over time. If you have a history of any health condition that affects your colon, then be sure to get screened regularly.
You can also take steps to prevent IBD flare-ups, although you won't always be able to control your disorder at all times:
6. Manage Rectal Bleeding
7. Reduce Diarrhea, Constipation & Nausea
If you deal with diarrhea and constipation during your recovery or due to a related illness, here are steps that can help:
Precautions Regarding Colon Cancer Symptoms & Diagnosis
If you have any of the colon cancer signs and symptoms mentioned above, rather than panicking it's best to visit a doctor. Colon cancer symptoms can be similar to those caused by a number of other illnesses, such as hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. In other words, just because you have unusual bowel movements or pain doesn't mean you have cancer.
That being said, don't ignore persistent pain or symptoms, especially unusual blood in your stool. Keep up with annual doctor's appointments and always discuss any risk factors that you may have for cancer with your doctor.
Key Points About Colon Cancer Symptoms & Treatment
7 Natural Ways to Relieve Colon Cancer Symptoms
Food is Medicine
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