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Published March 15, 2013, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: Don’t skip colorectal cancer screening

Have you ever postponed a medical screening test? Maybe you think you really don’t need it. Maybe it sounded painful. Maybe the thought of the preparation for the medical procedure or the test itself embarrassed you.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

Have you ever postponed a medical screening test? Maybe you think you really don’t need it. Maybe it sounded painful. Maybe the thought of the preparation for the medical procedure or the test itself embarrassed you.

Perhaps you can think of several other reasons to forgo making the call for an appointment.

However, don’t skip a colorectal cancer screening test, especially if you have turned 50. Most medical providers recommend a colonoscopy at 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Another option for colorectal cancer screening is a yearly take-home stool kit. Talk to your health-care provider about your preference and testing options for colorectal cancer.

The best test is the one that gets done.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 percent of colorectal cancer occurs in people above the age of 50. If you have a personal or family history of the disease, your medical-care provider may recommend the test earlier.

The colorectal screening test detects precancerous polyps. Early detection can mean a greater chance of a cure.

Sometimes there are no symptoms of colorectal cancer. Other times, people may observe blood in the stool during bowel movements or stomach pains, cramps and/or unexplained weight loss.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In North Dakota, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer incidence and third leading cause of death. If everybody age 50 and older had regular screening tests, colorectal cancer could be reduced by 50 percent.

Lifestyle factors, such a healthful diet and exercise, play a major role in fighting cancer. These are some tips that may reduce your risk of colon cancer and other diseases:

E Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity are linked to a greater risk for colorectal cancer.

E If you smoke, take steps to quit. Long-term smoking is linked to a greater risk of colon cancer.

E Enjoy fruits and vegetables of a variety of colors, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts. Remember to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.

E “Fiber up” your diet. For colon health, get plenty of insoluble fiber, which is found in wheat bran, whole grains and vegetables. Rinse your vegetables, but eat the skin. High-fiber foods may help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. They are low in calories and often less expensive than highly processed foods. Most adults need 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day, but be sure to increase your fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of water.

E Get your folate/folic acid. Folate is found in dry edible beans (such as kidney and navy beans), oranges and green leafy vegetables. Folic acid is found in fortified/enriched breakfast cereal, bread and flour. Folate/folic acid may play a protective role in fighting cancer.

E Enjoy low-fat or fat-free dairy products. The calcium and vitamin D in milk may reduce your risk for colorectal cancer according to many published studies.

E Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Colorectal cancer risk increases greatly when people have more than two drinks per day.

E Get regular physical activity. Health experts recommend that we accumulate 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days per week. For example, take two 15-minute walking breaks every day.

For more information, see “Fast Fiber Facts” available at http://tinyurl.com/fiberfacts.

Here’s a colorful recipe with plenty of vegetables. Use whole-grain pasta to add more fiber.

Pasta With Creamy

Tomato and Vegetable Sauce

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup water

2 carrots, peeled, then diced

4 scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon dried basil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 zucchini, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes, including liquid

1½ cup vegetable stock

½ cup plain low-fat or Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 pound shells or rotini pasta (whole grain)

Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Place a large skillet over a medium-high heat and add the butter, water and carrots. Cook, partially covered, until the carrots begin to soften, about six to eight minutes. Add the scallions, parsley, basil, garlic, zucchini and red pepper and cook for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup vegetable stock and cook until all the vegetables are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Put the remaining ½ cup vegetable stock, yogurt and tomato paste in a small bowl and mix well. Slowly add the yogurt mixture to the pan, stirring all the while and cook until just heated through, about two minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Serve pasta in shallow bowls with sauce on top, garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 290 calories, 4 g of fat, 12 g of protein, 53 g of carbohydrate, 4 g of fiber and 400 mg of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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