What Causes Colon Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a cancer of the lower gastrointestinal tract that occurs when cancer cells start to grow uncontrollably. Some of the body’s cells divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths both in men and women in the United States. From 2010 to 2014, it was the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Louisiana.
What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Sometimes there are no symptoms until colorectal cancer has advanced. Therefore, colorectal cancer screening is crucial for prevention and treatment. Some signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include the following:
- Rectal bleeding: This includes bleeding from the rectum or blood in your stool.
- Changes in bowel movements: Monitor any changes that last for over two weeks, such as diarrhea, constipation, infrequent bowel movements, change in the size of your stool or a feeling of not completely relieving yourself within a bowel movement.
- Stomach cramping and pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unusual stools: Get to know your stool. Look for any differences in your stool from color or shape. Be especially aware of thin pencil-like stools, which could indicate that something may be blocking your bowel movements; this needs to be investigated further.
Am I too young to have colorectal cancer?
The fastest-growing demographic developing colorectal cancer is women and men between the ages of 40-50. Around 11% of all colorectal cancer is diagnosed in people under the age of 50. The United States Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that colorectal screenings start at age 45 unless there is a family history. If you have a family history of colon cancer, you should have a screening colonoscopy 10 years before the date of that family member's diagnosis. For example, if you had a parent who was diagnosed at age 47, you should have a screening colonoscopy at age 37.
How can I prevent colorectal cancer?
The best thing you can do to prevent and treat colorectal cancer is to speak to your doctor about any concerns. We may recommend you have a colonoscopy to figure out what may be causing your symptoms. A colonoscopy is nothing to fear and is the most sensitive way to determine if there is anything abnormal in the colon. If detected early, polyps can be removed and prevent colon cancer from forming. It’s also important to note there are many things you can start doing now to prevent colorectal cancer, such as quitting smoking, exercising, limiting alcohol consumption and consuming 25 grams of fiber a day.
Colorectal cancer is 100% preventable. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Don’t ignore family history. Know your family history. Check your colon!
Early cancer detection can save your life. Schedule a colonoscopy at Ochsner.org/cancer-screenings.