Self-management

Coping and support

A cancer diagnosis can be emotionally challenging. In time, each person learns to cope in his or her own way. Until you find what works for you, you might try to:

  • Know what to expect. Learn enough about your cancer to feel comfortable making treatment decisions.

    Ask your doctor to tell you the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your treatment options and their side effects. The more you know, the more confident you'll be when it comes to making decisions about your own care. Look for information in your local library and on reliable websites.

  • Keep friends and family close. Keeping your close relationships strong will help you deal with your cancer. Friends and family can provide the practical support you'll need, such as helping take care of your house if you're in the hospital. And they can serve as emotional support when you feel overwhelmed by cancer.
  • Find someone to talk with. Find a good listener who is willing to listen to you talk about your hopes and fears. This may be a friend or family member. The concern and understanding of a counselor, medical social worker, clergy member or cancer support group also may be helpful.

    Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. Or check your phone book, library or a cancer organization, such as the National Cancer Institute or the American Cancer Society.

Prevention

Get screened for colon cancer

People with an average risk of colon cancer can consider screening beginning at age 50. But people with an increased risk, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, should consider screening sooner.

Several screening options exist — each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Talk about your options with your doctor, and together you can decide which tests are appropriate for you.

Make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk

You can take steps to reduce your risk of colon cancer by making changes in your everyday life. Take steps to:

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which may play a role in cancer prevention. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you get an array of vitamins and nutrients.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
  • Stop smoking. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit that may work for you.
  • Exercise most days of the week. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days. If you've been inactive, start slowly and build up gradually to 30 minutes. Also, talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are at a healthy weight, work to maintain your weight by combining a healthy diet with daily exercise. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy ways to achieve your goal. Aim to lose weight slowly by increasing the amount of exercise you get and reducing the number of calories you eat.

Colon cancer prevention for people with a high risk

Some medications have been found to reduce the risk of precancerous polyps or colon cancer. However, not enough evidence exists to recommend these medications to people who have an average risk of colon cancer. These options are generally reserved for people with a high risk of colon cancer.

For instance, some evidence links a reduced risk of polyps and colon cancer to regular use of aspirin. But it's not clear what dose and what length of time would be needed to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Taking aspirin daily has some risks, including gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers, so doctors typically don't recommend this as a prevention strategy unless you have an increased risk of colon cancer.

Feb. 23, 2016
References
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  2. AskMayoExpert. Colon cancer (surgical management). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
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  4. Colon cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.
  5. Distress management. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.
  6. Colon cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colon-treatment-pdq. Accessed Jan. 27, 2016.
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