Eat colorfully to prevent colon cancer
By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor
The message is a simple one: Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable IF you get screened to catch the disease early, and if you "eat a rainbow" of foods rich in cancer-fighting nutrients and fiber and lead a lively lifestyle, incorporating exercise and a positive outlook.
It's the message the local chapter of the American Cancer Society will be spreading in TV and radio spots, free cooking classes and other activities during March, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
It's also important to know the warning signs of colon cancer, which include changes in bowel habits or appetite and fatigue; "Know your body," 17-year-colon cancer survivor Gerry Johansen said at a press conference streamed live from Kapi'olani Community College Monday morning. Johansen didn't know she had the cancer until she collapsed while addressing a golf ball on the 11th tee at a local country club. But, she said, she had known for some time that "something wasn't right" and had, like many, avoided going to the doctor. What "wasn't right" was that a tumor was blocking her body's access to oxygen-rich blood.
At the press conference, cancer society officials, Johansen, doctors, nutritionists and others talked about what to do. First, if you are over 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, get screened. There are a variety of screening tests available; consult with your physician about which to take. Janet Liang, president of Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, said that organization is engaged in a pilot project that will eventually result in all their members 50 years or older receiving test kits in the mail.
Colon cancer is one of only two cancers that can be prevented via screening, when small polyps, indicative of the cancer, can be identified and then removed.
It is also a cancer that, like many others, has a relationship to lifestyle and, in particular, what you eat. The prescription: Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Reduce red and processed meats. Control portion sizes. Avoid alcohol. Don't smoke. Eat whole grains. And engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
And to assure people that this doesn't mean taking all the fun out of life — especially at the table — two presenters prepared easy, quick and inviting dishes that meet the guidelines.
Dr. Michele Carbone, director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i, made orecchiette with rapini — steamed pasta in a quick saute of rapini (broccoli rabe, a leafy green available at Whole Foods and other gourmet grocery outlets) with garlic, parsley, anchovies, olive oil and a light sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese. And Sharon Kobayashi of Kapi'olani Community College's culinary program, a chef and owner of a catering firm, prepared four-seeded salmon (salmon "breaded" with a mix of sesame, black mustard, poppy and fennel seeds) and a risotto made with barley instead of rice.
The focus was on surrounding healthful foods with potently flavored ingredients used in moderation and with using "good fats" (those high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids).
Free cooking classes featuring these and other recipes are planned at Castle Medical Center (263-5400; castlemed.org), Kapi'olani Women's Center (535-7000; http://www.kapiolaniwoman.org) and The Queen's Medical Center (537-7117). Call for schedules and to register.