It’s not something you ever want to have to think about, but colon cancer is on the rise and has been for the last few decades.
According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, people born in 1990 have double the risk for colon cancer compared to those born in the 1950s.
That’s why it’s so important to know the signs and symptoms of this disease.
This is especially important for women, especially younger ones. Colon cancer sits at No. 3 for the leading cause of cancer deaths among women, falling only behind breast and lung cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is worrisome, but colon cancer is very treatable if caught early.
If you already know your family has a history of colon cancer or rectal cancers, talk to your primary care doctor or contact a gastroenterologist to explore getting a colonoscopy. It won’t be enjoyable, but better safe than sorry.
“We don’t want to create a panic, and the frequency in younger adults is still relatively low, but we are seeing an increase,” said Dr. Mark Pochapin, director of gastroenterology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and treasurer of the American College of Gastroenterology in an interview with The New York Times.
The data surrounding rates of colon cancer in young people means the medical profession needs to be “vigilant,” Dr. Pochapin said.
“We need doctors to realize colorectal cancer is possible in younger patients, and if they are having something like rectal bleeding, this could be something more serious. Young people’s symptoms should not be dismissed,” Dr. Pochapin said.
Signs And Symptoms To Look Out For
For everyone else without a family history, here are the signs and symptoms to be aware of.
Changes In Bowel Habits
These changes could include diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool, and the changes will last for more than a few days, according to the American Cancer Society.
Just like with a UTI, the feeling that you need to have a bowel movement (but no relief after trying) could be a symptom that something is amiss. Don’t ignore it.
Rectal bleeding or bloody, dark stool is never a good sign, but it can often be dismissed as hemorrhoids (as in this woman’s case). If what you’re leaving in the toilet is significantly darker than usual or has a tarry texture, that’s a sign you need to call the doctor.
If you have unexplained cramping or abdominal pain that just isn’t going away no matter what, call your doctor.
Things like weakness, fatigue and unintended weight loss are all potential symptoms of colon cancer. These are difficult to diagnose alone, but in concert with the other symptoms listed, they could point to something serious.