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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Lifelong health management

Colon cancer screening

The symptoms of colon cancer can be very similar to the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This can make colon cancer harder to detect in people with IBD. The inflammation caused by IBD can also damage parts of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, making it easier for cancer to form in the GI tract. Because of this, people with IBD have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

You may be more at risk for developing colon cancer if you:

  • have had IBD for 10 or more years
  • have a history of extensive inflammation due to your IBD
  • also have a diagnosis of primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • currently have or have a history of small growths (polyps) in your GI tract
  • have a family hisotry of colon cancer

There are several changes you can make to decrease your risk of colon cancer. They include:

  • keeping your IBD under control
  • eating well​
  • being physically active
  • quitting smoking
  • reducing how much alcohol you drink

Because the treatment for IBD is improving and because colonoscopies allow for earlier detection of cancer, rates of colon cancer in people with IBD have been decreasing.

If you are diagnosed with colon cancer, your gastroenterologist and other members of your healthcare team will work with you to treat it. Colon cancer is highly treatable if it is found early. Approximately 9 out of 10 cases (90%) of colon cancer can be cured if they are found early.

Learn more about colon cancer and other types of cancer of the GI tract.


People with IBD often have problems with their immune system, especially if they are taking medicines that weaken their immune system like steroids, immunomodulators, or biotherapies. Because of this, if you have IBD, you may not be able to safely get all vaccines or you may not get the same protection from vaccines as people who do not have IBD.

Talk with your gastroenterologist or primary healthcare provider about all of the vaccines you have had. They can help make sure that you stay up to date on your vaccines and can give you advice if you need additional vaccines. If you plan on travelling to countries where specific vaccines are recommended, talk with your healthcare team.

Learn more about vaccines for people with IBD.

Eating well

When you have IBD, you are at risk of not getting enough nutrition. This is because IBD affects your digestive system, or gut, which makes it harder for your body to get the nutrition from your food. Not getting enough nutrition can put you at risk for malnutrition. Malnutrition impairs your ability to heal, increases your risk of infection, increases your risk of complications after surgery, and impacts your ability to move around independently.

While there is no single way of eating that works for everyone, there are some foods that may help to:

  • lower inflammation in your gut
  • manage symptoms
  • improve your quality of life

Download My IBD Diet Plate to learn which foods can be helpful.

​Keeping a food diary and a bowel and symptom diary can also help you keep track of any foods that worsen the symptoms of your IBD.

Learn more about eating well when you have IBD:

If you are having trouble managing your diet on your own, talk to your gastroenterologist about getting a referral to a dietitian, call Health Link at 811 to talk to a dietitian, or fill out a self-referral form online.

Physical activity and exercise

Being active and exercising regularly has many benefits for people with IBD. It may help improve mental health, reduce inflammation, increase bone health, and help prevent symptoms. Although it can be hard to exercise when you might be feeling fatigued or sick, getting moving can help you feel better.

People with IBD can safely do light and moderate exercise. Adding light exercise like walking or yoga into your daily routine can improve your physical and mental health and improve your quality of life. In most cases, light exercise will not worsen your IBD symptoms. Participating in muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week can also help maintain good muscle and bone health.

High-intensity exercise is considered safe for people whose IBD is in remission. It is unclear how high-intensity exercise can impact people whose IBD is in a flare or whose IBD is severe, so you may want to restrict the amount of high-intensity exercise you do during these times.

Learn more about exercising safely and effectively with IBD​.​​​​​​​​​​​

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