According to the American Cancer Society, “Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States.” On average, the risk of developing colon cancer is about 1 in 20. March is National Colorectal Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to raise awareness for colorectal cancer and encourage early screenings, especially if you or your adult child is experiencing symptoms.
I recently read a study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It concluded that colorectal cancer in the U.S. is rapidly declining — but surprisingly — is increasing among young adults. In fact, “people born around 1990 (millennials) have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer of people born around 1950.” I immediately thought about the number of our patients who have children in their 20s and 30s. The study didn’t determine the reason for the shift, but it made me question whether screening should start earlier.
Some of our patients have shown symptoms of colon and rectal cancers (such as rectal bleeding or a change in bowel habits) but are not aware that this is a concern so they delay their diagnosis. Others have shown no symptoms until cancer was detected through screenings.
Common symptoms of colorectal cancer (provided by fightcolorectalcancer.org):
- An ongoing change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely)
- Stools that are narrower than usual
- Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or abdominal cramps
- Weight loss for no known reason
- Feeling very tired (weakness and fatigue)
Check with your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms, regardless of your age. Colon cancer and rectal cancer can be prevented. Screening can detect cancer early — when it is most curable.
To learn more about screening for colon cancer, watch “Screening, Signs & Symptoms of Colon Cancer” by Dr. Paul Limburg of Mayo Clinic.
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