Colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable kinds of cancer when it is diagnosed at an early stage. The best form of prevention and protection is a colonoscopy—the only screening test that consistently detects colorectal cancer before it develops. The recommended age for a screening colonoscopy is 45, most insurance companies begin coverage at age 50. Unfortunately, colorectal cancer is being detected in younger people who don’t fall into standard screening categories. This is why it’s so important to know the risk factors and symptoms of colorectal cancer. With colorectal cancer on the rise in young adults, you can no longer assume that you’re too young or that your symptoms are too insignificant. It’s time to take action today.
How does Colorectal Cancer Affect Younger People?
As colonoscopies become more of a priority, colorectal cancer rates have been dropping in adults over the age of 50. However, the rates have been steadily increasing in adults under 50 years of age. Rectal cancer is increasing by 4% each year and colon cancer is increasing by 3%. The breakdown of colorectal cancer cases in young people is not an even split. Specifically, 72% are diagnosed with colon cancer and 28% are diagnosed with rectal cancer. According to the Colon Cancer Coalition, adults in their 30s are 30% more likely to receive a colorectal cancer diagnosis in stage III or IV. These statistics are staggering. Learning what symptoms to look for will help you call your GI doctor in a more prompt time.
What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer symptoms look very similar to the symptoms of several other GI problems. This is why they are often ignored or confused with another diagnosis. So, if you notice any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to call your doctor. Even if a less-serious GI problem is ultimately diagnosed, it’s not worth remaining silent until cancer spreads or develops into a later, more fatal stage. The most serious symptom is blood in the stool.
Other symptoms include abdominal pain, feeling bloated, or feeling like you are unable to completely empty your bowel. If you have unintended weight loss or notice a sudden change in bowel habits like ongoing constipation or diarrhea, contact your doctor immediately. You may be embarrassed by your symptoms, but no doctor will be embarrassed to talk to you about what’s going on. Colorectal cancer is too serious, and early detection is too important, for you to avoid simply because you’re embarrassed.
What are the Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer?
There are some risk factors for colorectal that are beyond your control. The primary risk factor is age and the second is a family history of colorectal cancer. If your first degree blood relative (parent, sibling, child) has a history of polyps, pre-cancerous growths in the colon and rectum, or a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, you need to communicate this information with your doctor. You may be eligible for a colonoscopy prior to the recommended age to help avoid an unwanted diagnosis. But, there are other risk factors and precautions you can take to help protect your body from colorectal cancer.
Risk factors that may be within your control are obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, use of tobacco and alcohol, and diet. We encourage you to limit your consumption of alcohol if you cannot cut it out completely. In order to get healthy and stay healthy, stop smoking today. It’s also important to adjust your diet so that it consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and high fiber content. Exercise is just as important in overall health as it is preventing colorectal cancer. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle by exercising three or four times a week for at least 20 minutes. When you take these steps, you’ll be doing your part in preventing the development of colorectal cancer.
If you have questions or concerns about colorectal cancer, do not wait to call us at Carolina Digestive Health Associates. We want to help young people avoid a colorectal cancer diagnosis. Pay attention to your bowel habits and let us know if you notice any sudden changes.