Early Detection of Colorectal Cancer is Key

The best way to prevent the spread of colorectal cancer is with regular screening. You don’t need to experience symptoms to get screened for colon cancer. When colorectal cancer does turn out to be the cause, symptoms often appear only after the cancer has grown or spread. Early detection is the key to removing harmful polyps and preventing further complications.

There are a few screening options that will detect colon cancer:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Fecal occult blood testing
  • Double contrast barium enema

You should begin screening for colorectal cancer soon after turning 50, and then continue getting screened at regular intervals. When colon cancer is found in early stages, the 5 year survival rate is at about 90%. The American Cancer Society predicts that the number of colon cancer deaths could drop by half if all Americans were routinely tested.

Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

Many patients do not experience colon cancer symptoms, so regular screening is the best way to determine your colon health.

Colon cancer symptoms include:

  • Change in bowel habits, like diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Constant fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unintentional weight loss

Many signs of colon cancer are also the signs for other diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids or infection. If you experience these symptoms, it is a sign that you should see your physician so the cause can be found and treated.

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

While some risk factors are able to be changed, there are some that you can’t control. Colorectal cancer risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Personal or family history of colorectal polyps or cancer
  • Racial and ethnic background: African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews have the highest rate
  • Having type 2 diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol intake
  • A diet that is high in red meats and processed meats

Remember that having a risk factor does not mean you will get the disease. Some people who get colorectal cancer have no risk factors.

Learn about colonoscopy services at Lifespan