Like many cancers, colon cancer can have subtle or pronounced symptoms that look like another condition. While lung cancer causes the most cancer-related deaths, colon cancer follows right after in second place.
Screening generally starts around age 50, but an alarming number of patients are being diagnosed at a younger age. As we speak, the American Cancer Society and other health organizations are pushing for the standard screening age to drop to 45, but still, it is possible for someone to get colorectal cancer in their 20s or 30s.
Depending on the stage of detection, colon cancer is often successfully treated with a high rate of survival. But what are the signs of this form of cancer? You don’t have to wait until you are 50 years old to get a colonoscopy. If you have a family history of the disease or suspect something is off, pay attention to these symptoms.
Sudden Weight Loss
If you are not following a weight loss plan but notice a significant amount of pounds are being dropped, cancer could be the cause. Tumors feed themselves with blood and nutrients, and the waste they release can increase your metabolism, causing your weight to drop.
Sharp Pains in the Abdomen or Excessive Gas
Cramping or other pain in the abdominal region – including the stomach or sides – that occurs consistently is something that should be checked. Tumors and polyps can cause inflammation in the colon, causing pain, gas, and discomfort.
Bloody or Thin Stools
Often, this is the first and most prevalent sign. If you notice blood in the stool itself or they seem darker, visit a doc right away! That could indicate a tumor has torn. Blood in the bowl or on toilet paper could also be hemorrhoids or a fissure, but seek medical advice.
Stool shapes can change and checking them is NOT the most thrilling activity, but if you notice they go from your norm to thin, it could indicate a colon problem.
Blockages in the colon or rectum can make it more difficult to pass your bowels. As tumors grow larger, they can cause obstructions in one section or multiple sections of the tract, and may or may not cause pain. If you experience constipation suddenly or regularly, speak with your doctor.
Colon cancer tumors can lead to the loss of red blood cells, and therefore, iron deficient anemia. Anemia will often manifest as fatigue, weakness, or heart palpitations.
Genetics play a huge role in one’s risk of being diagnosed with this particular cancer, but factors such as diet, physical activity, smoking, and obesity also contribute. If you are living with an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s, it is also important to get frequent checkups.
Be sure to eat a diet high in fiber that’s also rich in fruits, vegetables, and nutrients. And get plenty of exercise according to your needs. You may want to consult with a medical professional to arrange a regimen.
Treatment for colon cancer may include surgery, chemo, or radiation, but in some cases, no treatment protocol is available. If the cancer has metasticized, it can’t always be detected or treated with current resources. See a physician if you have a family history or are experiencing the above symptoms!
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with colon cancer? Did the symptoms catch you off guard?