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Bowel Cancer Awareness Ribbon

Bowel Cancer Awareness Month Information

This year, Bowel Cancer and Colorectal Awareness and Support Programme was launched on World Health Day (7 April 2021) to partner with The South African Colorectal Society (SACRS). 

March was Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In that month, healthcare workers tried in many ways to bring awareness to the importance of colorectal cancer screenings, prevention and treatment to the public. 

Since COVID19, there has been a delay in screenings and treatment. CANSA hopes to further assist colorectal patients with better diagnosis and treatment via support materials released this year. The aim is to access public and private health support services, pain management, stoma products and care. 

Colorectal cancer, bowel cancer, and colon cancer or rectal cancer are the same conditions, but the definition depends on the position of the specific cancerous cells. The bowel is a crucial player in your digestive system and is part of the lower gastrointestinal tract.

Colorectal is the fourth most common cancer in men and women. It is also preventable. Doctors recommend that everyone have Colorectal cancer screenings from the age of 45. This is one of two new developments which have recently occurred. The second development is that the cost of colonoscopies is to be fully covered by medical aid. 

This cancer develops from non-cancerous polyp-growths on the lining of the colon and rectum. There are loads of misconceptions about colorectal cancer. It is not fatal. When detected early, colorectal cancer has a high survival rate. 

Finding out that you have colorectal cancer

Patients who have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease are at an increased risk of developing bowel cancer. This includes Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. 

Being overweight is also a risk factor. Avoid red meat, processed meats, drinking alcohol and smoking.

Colorectal cancer has no symptoms in its early stages. Screening is vital because of the lack of symptoms. Non-specific symptoms include rectal bleeding, unexplained abdominal pain, constipation or change habits in your bowel.

Losing weight for no reason and fatigue are symptoms found at the later stages of colorectal cancer. You may also see a lump in your rectum or anus and even a low red blood cell count. 

Safe and painless screening test

A family history of colorectal cancer does not mean you are at risk. A colonoscopy is a test used to screen or detect colorectal cancer. A flexible instrument is inserted into your anus to examine the colon. It is not painful. It is safe and done under sedation.

Treatment options are growing.

Doctors treat Colorectal cancer with surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Usually, a combination of the three.

Minimally-invasive endoscopic, laparoscopic, open and robotic surgery is offered as treatment as well. According to The Conversation, there are several approved colorectal cancer screening options, including tests that look for blood or specific DNA in faecal samples. Visualisation tests will examine the inner lining of your colon. The test can find tumours that need removal or precancerous lesions. 

Screenings will also be made simpler and more sensitive with newer technologies. Non-invasive testing can still bring up concerns. A colonoscopy will follow up on the concerns.

Taking aspirin has also been known to reduce your risk factors significantly. 

How does the intestine heal?

The intestine is one of the essential organs in the body. Dr Bernard Jensen, DC, referred to as the ‘Father of Colonics’, famously said: “Death begins in the colon.” So, with this, keeping the colon healthy is imperative.

But, when the colon hasn’t been well, how does it recover?

  • The food we eat is fundamental in giving the intestines the proper nutrients it needs to regenerate. Everything we consume will affect the gut, so a diet of fermented foods (such as Greek yoghurt), fruits and veggies, beans, rice and other easily digestible, high fibre food is preferred. 
  • There is a balance between good and bad bacteria in our digestive system responsible for bowel functions. Taking a daily probiotic, especially after using an antibiotic, will keep this balance in the green!
  • Healthy Chef suggests collagen, rich in glycine and glutamine, two amino acids beneficial for promoting digestion and supporting a healthy gut barrier. This can be found in food like bone broth. The collagen released from the bones helps to heal the lining of our gastrointestinal tract and reduce inflammation.

Which health professionals should you see?

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity for us to consider the risk factors. You can learn more by talking to your doctor or insurance provider. 

Your general practitioner is the first doctor that you will see. They will arrange tests to assess your symptoms and negotiate any further tests if your screening test is positive. 

If the tests do not rule out cancer, you will see a specialist, such as a colorectal surgeon or a gastroenterologist. The specialist will arrange further tests. 

If they detect bowel cancer, the specialist will consider treatment options. You may see a range of health practitioners during and after your treatment. They will specialise in different aspects of your care.   

How do I know if the doctor I need is on the Network?

Affinity Health has made it very easy for you to check whether your desired physician is covered. 

Finding your nearest GP is as easy as going to Affinity Health’s website and clicking on the Find a Doctor tab. 

Affinity Health members can contact us on 0861 11 00 33 to consult with an Affinity Health primary healthcare consultant.

We will assess your symptoms and give you medical advice before issuing you a script.

 

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