Colon Cancer Prevention & Early Detection
Colon cancer  (also referred to as colorectal cancer) is preventable and curable, but in the beginning there are no symptoms. If colon cancer is caught in its earliest stages, it can be cured 90 to 100% of the time.

Prevention is also possible. Colorectal cancer can be prevented through proper diet and removal of pre-cancerous growths, called polyps . 

However, to prevent this disease or discover it in its earliest stages, patients need to participate in the screening process. There are several methods to screen patients for colon cancer. Your physician will assist you in determining which of these the best are for you. 

 What screening tests are available?
We recommend three screening tests. You can talk to our medical staff about which is right for you and how often you should be tested:

  • Fecal Occult Blood Test or Stool Test: This take-home test checks for occult (hidden) blood in the stool, which may indicated the presence of polyps. This test should be done every year.
  • Colonoscopy: The colonoscopy is considered to be the “gold standard,” or the most effective colorectal cancer screening test. A long, flexible tube with a tiny camera is used to examine the inside of the colon and rectum, to find and remove polyps or cancer. This test is usually done every 10 years. [Learn more about Colonoscopies.]
  • Virtual Colonoscopy: This is a CT scan of the colon and rectum, which creates a 3-dimensional view of the inside of these organs. It is less invasive and faster than a standard colonoscopy. If any abnormalities are found, a colonoscopy may need to be performed afterwards to remove polyps or to biopsy abnormal tissue. [Learn more about Virtual Colonoscopies.

Will insurance pay for colonoscopies?
Medicare and many insurance plans are now required to pay for Colonoscopies for people age 50 and over, or earlier if risk factors demonstrate a need. Contact Midwest GI Health at 816-836-2200

Who should be screened?
Patients who are at average risk for colon cancer are characterized by the following: 

  • ​No family history of colon cancer.
  • Lack of symptoms (change in bowel habits, evidence of bleeding from the rectum, thinning of the diameter of the stool and abdominal pain).
  • Tests for hidden blood in the stool are negative (fecal occult blood test).
  • Rectal exam shows no masses.

For an average risk patient, a screening colonoscopy is recommended after the age of 50. This is an examination of the colon with a videoscope so the physician can see any abnormalities, such as a polyp or a cancer. At the time of the colonoscopy, polyps can be removed to prevent a cancer from developing.

If a person is in a high-risk category for colon cancer, then a colonoscopy may be performed sooner then age 50. Any person with a first degree relative who has had colon cancer (i.e. parent, sibling) should have a colonoscopy approximately ten years prior to the age of diagnosis of that particular relative. 

Eat Right – Prevent Cancer
If we would all eat the way our mothers and grandmothers told us to, we’d have a much lower risk of developing colon cancer in the first place.

A high-fiber, low-fat diet can reduce your chances of developing polyps. Of course, the only proven way to prevent colorectal cancer is to have regular screenings to find and remove polyps. But when you combine regular screening with a healthy lifestyle, you benefit even more. A diet that’s high in fiber and low in fat can promote regular bowel function, thereby reducing the amount of time any cancer-causing substance is in contact with the colon lining and diluting the concentration of cancer-causing substances.

More than half of all colorectal cancers could be prevented if everyone followed these healthy tips:

  • Be physically active.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Take calcium supplements
  • Eat less red meat.
  • Take one aspirin a day. (Check with your doctor first!)
  • Don’t smoke.

There are other benefits to a high fiber diet, too. When you eat more fiber, you feel full faster, which means you eat less (that’s better for your weight) and you lower your cholesterol (which is better for your heart). Fiber-rich foods also help improve constipation, diarrhea,  hemorrhoids and diverticultis.

High Fiber Diet
The treatment of several gastrointestinal conditions is based upon the establishment of increased fiber in your diet. These include irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis and internal/external hemorrhoids. Some research data also indicates that increasing the amount of fiber in your diet may decrease the incidence of colon cancer. In addition, the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Government both recommend a diet with between 35-39 grams of fiber per day. Such a diet may also improve your cholesterol and help prevent heart disease. 

The following information should help guide you through the process of increasing the amount of fiber in your diet.
What is fiber? 
Fiber is found in plants and is generally not digested or absorbed by the body. Many different types of fibers exist and they are grouped into two broad categories. Each has a role in promoting good health. The two general types are water soluble fibers and insoluble fibers. 

Water soluble fibers can aid in the treatment of high cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity. By forming a gel, water soluble fibers stay in your stomach longer and help slow food absorption. Water-soluble fibers are found in oats, bran, dried beans, potatoes, seeds, apples, oranges, and grapefruit. 

Insoluble fibers hold water to produce softer, bulkier stools. These fibers are found in wheat and corn brans, nuts and many fruits and vegetables. By promoting better regularity, a diet high in insoluble fibers helps relieve constipation and control diverticular disease. People with diverticular disease are encouraged to eat a high fiber diet with a general avoidance of nuts, seeds, hulls and some skins since these can cause acute inflammation of the diverticula resulting in diverticulitis. 

Insoluble fibers may also help in preventing colon cancer. 

Tips for increasing fiber in your diet 

  • Substitute whole wheat flour for half or all of the flour in home baked goods.
  • When buying breads, crackers and breakfast cereals, make sure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat flour or another whole grain.
  • Use brown rice, whole grain barley, bulgur (cracked wheat), buckwheat, groats (kasha) and millet in soups and salads, or as cereals and side dishes.
  • Try a variety of whole wheat pastas in place of regular pasta.
  • Sprinkle bran in spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, ground meat mixtures and casseroles, pancakes, and other quick breads, and in cooked cereals and fruit crisp toppings.
  • Eat skins and edible seeds of raw fruits and vegetables.
  • For high fiber snacks, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain crackers or popcorn.
  • For lunches, pick crunchy vegetables stuffed in whole wheat pita bread, salads and hearty vegetable and bean soups.
  • For dessert, bake berry pies, apples stuffed with prunes, dates, and raisins; fruit compotes; whole wheat fruit breads; brown rice or whole wheat bread puddings; and whole wheat cakes and cookies.
  • Try Middle Eastern, Oriental and Mexican dishes that make liberal use of vegetables, whole grains and dried beans.
  • Use whole grain or bran cereals for crunchy toppings on ice cream, yogurt, salads or casseroles. Nuts, toasted soybeans, sunflower kernels, and wheat germ also can add interesting flavors and increase the fiber content of you meal.
  • Many vegetarian and high fiber cookbooks contain excellent high fiber recipes.

Note that many fiber values listed on labels, cookbooks and other reference materials use crude fiber values which are now outdated. Therefore, it is recommended that you use the dietary fiber values listed on the following pages when planning your meal menus. 

Fiber and Weight Loss 
High fiber foods offer a great plus for dieters! Many high fiber foods are naturally bulkier and more filling than refined foods, you tend to eat less calories on high fiber diets. 

Avoiding Problems with Increasing Fiber 
When increasing your dietary fiber, remember to include a variety of soluble and insoluble fiber food sources including whole grain breads and cereal, fruits and vegetables. While increasing your dietary fiber you should also drink at least 8 cups of fluid every day. Remember that water, milk, juice and decaffeinated sodas, teas and coffee are also sources of fluid. 

People who typically eat low fiber diets may experience increased flatulence (gas from below), bloating and occasionally diarrhea when they begin to eat large amounts of fiber all at once. To prevent these discomforts, the amount of fiber in your diet should be gradually increased. 

The amount of fiber in your present diet can be estimated with the charts below. Estimate your present fiber intake and increase you weekly fiber intake by 2-4 grams. Thus, if in Week 1, you have a base fiber content of 20 grams/day you would try to increase the amount of fiber to 22-24 grams/day for the first week. Then, in Week 2, the total fiber would be 24-28 grams/day. You can determine the amount of fiber added per day that works best for you. This should be based upon the amount of gas and bloating you experience with the dietary changes. If there is too much gas and bloating, then decrease the amount of fiber. 

Remember, the overall goal is to increase the fiber in your diet gradually and maintain this over a lifetime. 

Fiber Supplements 
Commercial fiber supplements are available, ranging from bran tablets to purified cellulose (an insoluble fiber). Many laxatives sold as stool softeners are actually fiber supplements. Since different types of fibers work in different ways, no one fiber supplement provides all of fiber’s potential benefits. Persons unable to change their diets might benefit from fiber supplements as suggested. 

  • Rye Flour