According to The Canadian Cancer Society, colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in men and the third leading cause of death from cancer in women in Canada. The silver lining to that statistic is that colon cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer and, if caught early, over 90% of cases can result in a full recovery.
Instead of focusing on the "CANCER" part of this month we are going to focus on the "AWARNESS" part so that this knowledge can be the power you need to hear what your body could be trying to tell you sooner than later.
Listening to the Signs and SymptomsWhen something is wrong, our body usually tries to give us clues that draw our attention to the problem. These signs and symptoms can start off as a gentle whisper but, when ignored for too long, can end up screaming so loudly that we have no choice but to pay attention to the disruption.
The most important advice I can give you is to pay attention to a sudden change in your body that doesn't make sense. When you have changed nothing about your lifestyle/diet/environment and all of a sudden something changes or a new symptom comes up DON'T IGNORE IT. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor as soon as possible.
- Change in bowel habits - If you have had the same bowel habits for a majority of your life and that starts to change to either diarrhea or constipation for more than a couple of weeks, a follow up visit to your ND is needed to rule out a pathological cause.
- Blood stools - This is the most commonly experienced colon cancer symptom. Blood found in stool can mean other issues but anything that it could be requires the attention of your ND. Blood in a stool can sometimes be seen, but it is more common for the blood to be hidden inside the stool. The blood may also be separate from the stool in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper. Take home message - LOOK BEFORE YOU FLUSH.
- Narrowing stools - The way the stool looks when it leaves the body can provide clues to what is going on inside. For example, pencil thin or ribbon-like stools can sometimes indicate that the stool had to squeeze by some sort of obstacle (like a tumour) on its way out.
- A sense of fullness - If the sensation is not linked to eating too much or not having a complete bowel movement, a sense of fullness can be felt due to a tumour that is growing toward the end of the colon or in the rectum. The sensation of fullness or "having to go but nothing is coming" is because your body senses that there is something present near the exit.
- Abdominal pain or cramping - Sometimes a tumour can block the stool and even gas from passing through the colon on its way out causing a partial or complete bowel obstruction. This can lead to abdominal pain and discomfort that can range from mild to severe. If there is a blockage, pain will also worsen as time goes by and more food in ingested.
- Unexplained weight loss/loss of appetite - Weight loss, without any change to your routine, should be mentioned in a visit with your ND. Loss of appetite could be a result of a cancer-related increase in metabolism.
- Gas & bloating - Any prolonged periods of bloating that do not resolve with diet changes or bowel movements should be looked at in a physical examination. A pattern of gas and bloating may be an indication that a tumour is growing in the colon and occasionally causing a blockage.
- Fatigue - Feeling exhausted can have many reasons and should be evaluated through comprehensive blood work and proper history taking. Bleeding caused by a tumour can cause iron deficiency anemia which can leave you feeling exhausted. Low blood levels can sometimes be the only sign we have that something is wrong.
Too often in my line of work do I hear patients say to me " I wish I knew". If you have digestive symptoms that are new for you or you "just don't feel like you", there is no point in waiting to get yourself properly evaluated by a Naturopathic Doctor.
As stated by the World Health Organization, a risk factor is an attribute, characteristic or exposure of an individual that increases the likelihood of developing a disease or injury. Below is a link to ND Health Facts that goes over the main causal factors for developing colon cancer. Risk Factors- ND Health Facts
It is important to remember that just because you may have risk factors, disease is not necessarily imminent. Some risk factors you cannot control and some you definitely can! Knowing how to change is sometimes where we need help from others. Naturopathic Doctors aim to teach you how to prevent and treat disease in a way that promotes healing on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.
Naturopathic Treatment PlanCreating a treatment plan with a patient that focuses on the strategies listed below is one of the ways I support my patients.
- Assessing individual risk factor
- Comprehensive laboratory testing
- Creating an individualized anti-inflammatory diet
- Supplement protocol
- Supporting the Gut-Brain connection
- Improving the health of the microbiome
Just remember, Cancer is just a word, not a life sentence!
If you or someone you know would like to book an appointment with Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND, please call Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic at 905.940.2727. Dr. Kimberley Ramberan, ND is IV Therapy certified and has a special interest in cancer care.