Watching for, reducing risks of colorectal cancer

Rana Sabbagh

Q. What are some of the early warning signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer?

A. Blood in the stool, bowel movement changes, sudden onset of constipation, unexplained weight loss. Many times there may not be any symptoms. Getting screened before you have symptoms is very important.

Q. What factors increase my risk for colorectal cancer?

A. Having a family history of colorectal cancer puts you at greatest risk. Age is definitely a factor. Your risk increases at age 50 and above. Other risks include genetic factors such as other cancers or health disorders that have occurred in your family history (uterine cancer, Crohn’s Disease, Lynch Syndrome, familial adenoma polyposis or autosomal dominant disease to name a few). Obesity, low-fiber, low-anti-oxidant and/or high-fat diets also play a role.

Q. What are the best foods to eat to lower my risk?

A. Eat more fruits, vegetables. Decrease the amount of fried foods, red meat and artificial ingredients in your diet. If you cannot pronounce the ingredient or understand what it is—do not eat it.

Q. Besides diet, is there anything else to lower my risk?

A. A screening colonoscopy is recommended for patients aged 50 and above. For African Americans, gastroenterology societies recommend to start screening at age 45. If a family history of colorectal cancer or genetic disposition for it is present, your doctor will help you determine the appropriate age to have your first screening colonoscopy based upon age that immediate relative was diagnosed. Open discussion with your family doctor about all of your health issues, symptoms and history is a very important aspect of lowering your risk.

(Rana Sabbagh, M.D., is board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology and nutrition. She is the founder of GastroCenter of Michigan and Experior Weight Loss Clinic, 23500 Park St., Suite 2B in Dearborn. Do you have a health question for Dr. Sabbagh? Submit it by email to: