Colon cancer is the 2nd largest cause of cancer-related death in the world. In the U.S., colorectal cancer ranks number three among causes of cancer-related deaths, dropping from number two over the last decade as awareness has spread about the efficacy of routine, preventive colorectal cancer screenings.
You may already know that colon cancer screening is important if you’re 50 or older, but what about if you’re not 50? Approximately 90% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed in people 50 years of age or older, but researchers are noticing an alarming rise in the 20-49-year-old age groups.
In 2017, the American Cancer Society released the results of a study revealing that Millennials have double the chance of being diagnosed with colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer in their lifetimes compared to Baby Boomers. The study findings were drastic enough for the American Cancer Society to lower their recommended age for a first-time colon screening from 50 down to 45.
Early Warning Signs of Colon Cancer
How can you make sure you’re not a part of this disturbing trend? Be aware of the early warning signs of colon cancer, and be sure to consult a gastroenterologist as soon as you notice symptoms. Here are some things to look out for:
Watch out for bright red rectal bleeding or dark, tarry stools, which could indicate the presence of blood.
Look for persistent abdominal pain, discomfort, or bloating.
Change in bowel habits
This could include constipation, diarrhea, a change in stool consistency, or narrowing of the stool.
This is defined as feeling like you still have to “go” after you’ve already had a bowel movement or feeling like your bowel movement was incomplete.
Unexplained weight loss
Unintentional weight loss may be an early warning sign.
This could mean you have anemia from an iron deficiency.
Many people do not exhibit any symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer, which is why it is important to get screened for colon cancer after the age of 45, or sooner if you have a family history of colon cancer. It’s normal to experience the above symptoms occasionally, but when you notice a persistent change and they occur for more than a couple of weeks, it is time to make an appointment to see a gastroenterologist. Contact the expert GI doctors of Adult Gastroenterology Associates.