Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Menopause does not cause cancer, but this disease does become more common with age. At this stage of life, it is wise to know your cancer risks and to understand what screening tests are available for this disease.
Colorectal Cancer is a treatable and potentially curable disease if detected early. Regular screening tests beginning at age 50 help detect polyps growing in the lining of the large intestine and allow for the removal of these growths before cancer can develop. For those at high risk for colorectal cancer, screening is a lot earlier than at age 50.
Each province and territory in Canada is responsible for establishing its own screening guidelines. A simple, done at-home fecal immunochemical test (FIT test) is the primary screening test for colorectal cancer and polyps in Ontario. This test looks for hidden blood in the stool, which is a sign of damaged blood vessels in colorectal polyps or cancers.
All positive FIT tests are followed up with a colonoscopy, a procedure that allows a doctor to view the inside of the colon and rectum for polyps and cancers. A colonoscopy could save your life.
If you’re having to go for a colonoscopy and dreading it, I get it. In late 2019, I was diagnosed with stage 1 colorectal cancer after a positive FIT test, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, CAT scan, and surgery. Colonoscopies will now be a part of my life.
If your family physician or other healthcare provider has recommended you have a colonoscopy, I urge you to follow through with it. I was asymptomatic and felt great at the time of my diagnosis.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death
from cancer in women.
The great thing about this procedure is that it usually allows for any polyps or precancerous and cancerous growths to be removed or biopsied right then and there. In my personal experience, my colonoscopies were not painful. Some form of sedation is given through an IV to help combat any uncomfortable sensations. I was able to watch my doctor’s tv screen as the tiny video camera made its way along my colon. So cool.
Read more about a colonoscopy here.
Most people will agree that the most unpleasant side of a colonoscopy is the bowel preparation. Diet and fluid restrictions are part of the prep. Any foods that contain nuts or seeds must not be consumed for a few days leading up to a colonoscopy, and solid food or milk products are not permitted the day before. As well, your doctor will prescribe laxatives such as Dulcolax tablets and/or a Pico-Salax solution to thoroughly cleanse your bowel of all contents. And I do mean thoroughly !
Replenishing your body with fluids and electrolytes after a colonoscopy is very important. The laxative and oral solution of the bowel preparation can lead to dehydration. Drinking water and sipping herbal teas throughout your recovery will help keep your body hydrated. Coconut water or maple sap water will help replenish your electrolytes.
You will likely be anxious to eat after the sedation wears off and you’re discharged from the hospital. It’s crucial that you follow any diet recommendations given to you by your doctor. However, in my case, I was told I could immediately resume my diet.
If you are told the same, I recommend that you resist the urge to go for pizza and a burger. Instead, choose soft, easy-to-digest, low fat and low-fibre foods for the remainder of the day. These foods are less likely to irritate the gut and will give your digestive system a chance to rest.
Adding probiotic foods such as yogurt, kefir, and miso to your diet will help restore friendly gut bacteria expelled during your bowel prep. Turmeric and and ginger are two herbs which help support the digestive system. A healthy gut is a happy you, so it's wise to nourish this system of your body.
Try this delicious smoothie!
1 cup non-dairy milk or kefir
1 cup Frozen Pineapple
½ Banana (frozen)
½ Zucchini (chopped and peeled, frozen)
1 1/2 tsps Ginger (fresh, minced)
1 tsp Turmeric
Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!
Diet and lifestyle have a lot to do with your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
A whole foods diet that is high in fibre will help lower your risk of developing cancerous polyps. You can read more about the many benefits of fibre in this blog post.
The menopause transition period is an excellent time to make changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Need some help increasing fibre in your diet? I can help with that! I can make you a meal plan or gather a collection of recipes based on your unique tastes.
Need a FIT test? Consult your family doctor or nurse practitioner. LifeLabs will mail a test to your address of choice after your doctor or nurse practitioner has ordered you one. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, then call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-828-9213.
CHECK OUT THESE WEBSITES TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COLORECTAL CANCER AND SCREENING TESTS