Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms, Early Detection, and Ways to Lower Your Risk

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon and/or rectum, and is the second most common cancer among men and women, affecting one in every 20 Americans.  These numbers may seem bleak, but with constant improvements in prevention, early detection and treatment options, more than one million Americans count themselves as survivors.

Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer with Early Detection

By taking a proactive approach and understanding the risk factors associated with this disease as well as taking all of the preventative measures to detect symptoms early, you can significantly lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Age: Your risk of developing colon cancer increases with age. It is recommended that men and women over the age of fifty should have a colonoscopy every ten years to monitor for colon cancer, whether or not symptoms are present.
  • Medical history: Be aware of your medical history.  Those with a family history of colon cancer or who have a prior diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis will have an increased risk of developing this disease.
  • Lifestyle: Studies have shown an increased risk of colorectal cancer in those who smoke cigarettes, are obese and/or have primarily inactive lifestyles, as well as those who eat diets high in red meat and animal fats with minimal intake of plant fiber from fruits and veggies. To reduce your risk, start incorporating healthier foods into your diet, quit smoking, and begin to work exercise into your daily routine.
  • Early detection: Whether or not it runs in your family, early detection is the first and best defense against colon cancer.  The majority of colon cancers develop in polyps, which are abnormal growths that typically protrude from the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Detecting and removing polyps before they present a concern helps to prevent your risk of developing this cancer.

Symptoms of Colon Cancer

Symptoms of colon cancer (having diarrhea or constipation, nausea or vomiting, sudden weight loss, finding blood in your stools, etc.) typically do not appear until the cancer is in its advanced stages, and often resemble symptoms associated with other diseases.  If none of the proper screenings are conducted, the cancer could go undetected and limit a patient’s treatment options.

If you have any concerns, consult with your doctor or request a referral to see a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist.

Guest post written by: Dr. Muhammad Mirza, Medical Director of Allied Medical & Diagnostic

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