Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the US. While the number of people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is alarming, an estimated 140,250 new cases of colorectal cancer are expected in 2019, 60% of deaths from it could be prevented with screening.
- Change in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in consistency of your stool that lasts longer than four weeks.
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Abdominal discomfort such as cramps, gas, or pain
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Regardless of if you have the early signs of colorectal cancer, regular screening should begin at the age of 50. If you have any of the below risk factors, you may consider screenings earlier in life.
- Age – While colon cancer can occur at any age, the majority of people diagnosed with it are over the age of 50.
- Race – African-Americans have a higher risk of colon cancer than other races.
- Health history – If you have had colon polyps in the past, have chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, you have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Inherited conditions may also affect your likelihood of cancer. Genetic syndromes including familial adenomatous polypsis and lynch syndrome may increase your risk, as well as having a family member with the disease. People with diabetes and insulin resistance also have an increased risk.
- Diet & Lifestyle – Some studies have shown that a diet low in fiber and high in fat or calories may increase your risk of developing colon cancer. An inactive lifestyle and obesity may also increase your risk.
- Alcohol & Tobacco – People who smoke or drink heavily have an increased risk of developing several types of cancer.
- Radiation – Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers increases the risk of colon and rectal cancer.
If the cancer is caught early enough, a surgeon may be able to totally remove the cancerous cells but if it is left undetected it may spread to other parts of the body.