CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – March is recognized as both National Nutrition Month and Colon Cancer Awareness Month, which is fitting since research indicates a link between the two.
“The incidence of colon cancer is high in populations with high consumption of processed meat, highly cooked meat and red meat,” said Dr. Jasvinder Singh of Summit Surgical Group. “A vegetarian diet appears to protect against it and obesity is a risk factor.”
Other risk factors include tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption.
Prior to joining Summit Health, Dr. Singh completed a research fellowship focusing on colon cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He noted that, locally, he often sees patients in need of his services with more advanced colon cancer because they did not get screened regularly or, perhaps, ignored symptoms.
“I have spent most of my professional life in urban areas like New York. I find disparities in rural-urban health to be very striking,” he said.
He links colon cancer presenting in rural patients at a more advanced stage to the tendency of rural populations to tolerate and ignore pain or other symptoms.
“This leads to late diagnosis of many diseases; colon cancer is a perfect example,” said Dr. Singh. “I was amazed to see so many patients presenting with late complications of colon cancer here within my first month at Chambersburg Hospital.”
Colon cancer as the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Franklin County.
According to Andrew Lininger, certified registered nurse practitioner with Summit Gastroenterology, symptoms of colon cancer can include:
- Changes in bowel habits that last a few weeks
- Blood in the stool
- Abdominal discomfort
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
- A feeling you need to have a bowel movement that doesn’t go away
“It’s important to remember there are other illnesses that can cause these symptoms so, it’s always best to consult with your provider about what you’re experiencing,” Lininger noted.
In addition to starting regular colonoscopies at age 50 or earlier, depending on risk factors, people can help reduce their risk of developing colon cancer through proper nutrition and by maintaining a healthy weight.
“I suggest adding plenty of vegetables, fresh fruits and high-fiber foods. Exercising regularly and maintaining normal body weight also has been shown to be protective against colon cancer,” said Dr. Singh.
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.
As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, two walk-in care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.